Q: I worry about our very active 6-year-old when I have to take him shopping. He gets excited, he moves too fast and talks to absolutely everyone he sees. I don't want to be paranoid, but please list some safety tips for me. — H.H.
A: Some items on my tip list may sound elementary, but in today's world, it's vital that families know and teach their children personal safety. Here's my list.
• Never leave any child alone in a store, a stroller, a car, or in any public place, even for a moment. Always accompany your child to the bathroom in a public place.
• Avoid buying or letting a child wear clothing that displays his or her name. A young child is ready to trust anyone who uses his name, especially if the person uses that name and says, "Your mom said I should come to get you."
• Plan an emergency strategy to use if you get separated in the store. Remember, you are not teaching fear; you are teaching facts and safety. Go over the strategy each time you enter a new store. You need a place to meet if you are separated that is both visible and easy to find and that also has a store clerk nearby.
• Be sure your child knows how to identify and go to a store clerk for help and to ask them to page you. Be sure children know their names.
• Try to schedule shopping when neither you nor your child is tired or hungry. Don't overschedule. If you cannot get all the things done on your list for that day, save some for tomorrow instead of opening yourself to stress and hassles.
• Try to find another parent in the same boat and trade baby sitting each other's children for a couple of hours to give each of you time to do some shopping on your own.
• Make lists and plan the logistics if you have to take your son shopping. Call the store ahead to be sure they have what you want. This will also help prevent buying on impulse, which is easy to do when you are distracted.
• Before you leave the house, go over the rules for safety and behavior with your son. Take some nutritional treats to avoid "Can I have …" hassle. Don't allow running, and most importantly, have him stay close to you at all times.
• If you find yourself in a position where you see that a child needs help or asks you for help, don't be afraid to give it. Take the child to the store manager/service desk and keep an eye on the child until the parents arrive.
Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com. For more columns from Evelyn Petersen, visit record-eagle.com/askevelyn.