Contrary to beliefs that locals work in casinos and live in hotels, Las Vegas is a community filled with families and children. Unfortunately, children can occasionally fall into harms way. Here are a few things that every parent should know.
Teach your children communication, contingency preparation, and consequence.
Some children that were victimized showed far too much respect for the authority of strangers. Teach your child their rights. They should know that they don’t have to go anywhere with anyone just because they’re an adult. This sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many children make this mistake. If a kid is in the arms of an adult and their screaming and flailing, most people will naturally assume that they’re throwing a tantrum. If the kid is screaming, “help!’ “Police!” or “you’re not my father!” that paints a different story. Teach them to communicate their situation to others that could witness or step in to help them in your absence.
2. Contingency Preparation
My co-worker conducts impromptu quizzes with his daughter. “You’re walking down the street and you see a guy sitting in a car alone…good guy or bad guy?” He has hundreds of scenarios. She ultimately learned that any stranger is a “bad guy” until proven otherwise. With the mental picture in her head, she’s likely to recognize a problem before it unfolds and exercise some life-saving options on her own. Choose a way to prepare children for contingencies. Let’s use a child lost in public as an example. A good initial plan would be to teach children what police officers, security guards, and firefighters look like and to approach them when lost. An ideal contingency plan would be to contact a woman with children when the child can’t find you or someone in uniform.
When I was a child, the story of Adam Walsh scared children into remaining glued to their parents in public. We understood that getting lost in public could lead to terrible consequences. It was difficult to keep the horrible and highly publicized incident away from the eyes and ears of children back then. It may be too brutal and sad to willfully tell children, so find a way to make them understand that dangers await them if they constantly run off without you.
Rehearsals are fun. One of the few things I know about kids is that they like to pretend. In the Midwest, we (children) loved rehearsals. We performed fire drills and tornado drills pretending these disasters were really happening. Schools rarely rehearse the avoidance of violence, drugs, or other issues. You can’t control the activities of your child’s school, so perform rehearsals at home.
Jessica Eaves learned that she had a condition that can cause frequent fainting. After rehearsing a song, she named “911 green,” which taught her daughter Madelyn to dial 911 and press the green send button, Jessica received medical treatment multiple times when fainting with only Madelyn around. Another child, 4-year-old Alex Cody, may have saved his mother’s life by singing his address to a 911 dispatcher when his mother lost consciousness after falling down some stairs. The advantages of learning such vital decision-making at such young ages will positively affect Madelyn and Alex when they’re older.
Rehearse everything you can think of. Routes to and from school, contacting the authorities, what to do if there’s a prowler, what suspicious subjects look like, etc.
The rules of engagement. Boys and Girls Clubs are filled with children during peak crime hours, yet violence or other safety-compromising issues are rare. I wish I could say the same for schools.
During a conversation with Jim Richards, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas, I realized this isn’t accidental. “Kids will perform to the level of expectation,” said Richards. He insisted that when an adult staff is firm, fair, consistent, and loving, children react positively.
Richards also told me about the “Smart Moves Program.” An acronym for Skills Mastery and Resistance Training, this prevention/education program addresses violence, drug and alcohol use, and premature sexual activity. Role-playing helps juveniles, ages 6 to 15, practice resistance, develop assertiveness, and strengthen their decision-making skills.
Children should know when and where to be extra cautious and who’s suspicious and who isn’t.
Avoid the pitfalls of technology. Technology has many advantages but there are also pitfalls that should be avoided. There are GPS trackers, video and audio monitors, leashes, and many other gadgets. When speaking to parents about technology, there’s a very strong argument on both sides. I made the awful mistake of asking two parents about child leashes at the same time and created an intense argument…oops. Arguments for technology were regarding convenience. Other parents claim that technological advances are used to avoid attentive parenting. Either way, technology will become obsolete at some point. When a child is nine or ten, they still should know that they should stay close to you or in a group. If they have been leashed without the proper teachings and reinforcement, they may still run off. If utilized, technology should be a tool not a substitute.
Don’t pass on bad safety habits. Look at the family in this photo. These parents can put themselves at risk but why do it with children. This photo was taken at 11pm on a Friday night. Sprinting across Las Vegas Boulevard is never a good idea but especially during that time of night. What’s the hurry?
One of the coolest things about kids is that they love safety when they’re young. Safety conscious parents claimed that demanding they exercise caution, gives their children a sense of responsibility they enjoy. When they get older, a sense of invincibility starts to set in so teach them while they’re young.