06/17/2016 01:02 EDT | Updated 06/17/2016 01:59 EDT

Keeping Your Kids Safe On Vacation Near Wildlife



The tale of two-year-old Lane Graves, snatched by an alligator from a lagoon near the Grand Floridian Hotel in Florida, is a tragedy. A family has lost a child and no amount of "could have" or "should have" will change that. My heart goes out to them.

These types of situations have a tendency to spark outrage and create division, especially in the realm of social media.

The practical outcomes are regularly the same, too: Fingers are pointed, parents are vilified, and the animals are hunted.

We saw it only weeks ago with Harambe, the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo into whose enclosure a young boy fell. The zoo has been accused of inadequate barriers, the child's mother was brought under legal scrutiny (though eventually absolved), and Harambe was shot and killed for acting like a gorilla. Luckily, in this case, the boy survived.

Sadly, the latest incident didn't end the same way.

As parents, these stories strike fear into our hearts. We've all lost sight of a child for a moment while tending to another or had two toddlers shoot off in separate directions at a theme park.

The simple fact is, we don't take our kids to the zoo so they can come into harm's way. We don't take them to a movie night on the beach to be snatched by an alligator.

We do these things out of love, out of a desperate need for a vacation, because we want to spend time with our families and expose them to another part of the world.

The trouble is, oftentimes "being away" means we let our guards down. It's why we, while vigilant about childproofing our homes, often head off on holiday and, in our excitement, forget we're in an unfamiliar place--one with different risks, different behavioral norms, and different emergency resources than we're used to at home.

Whether we're on an African safari or at an all-inclusive Disney resort, vacation has a way of imbuing us with a false sense of security.

Something in our brains says, "Nothing can go wrong."

But it can and it does.

And it's when those missteps make the front page, family therapist, Huffington Post parenting expert and book author Alyson Schafer tells me, that the world turns its head to judge.

Schafer is quick to point out that the final outcome almost always dictates how we evaluate the actions that precipitated it, citing a burning building as an illustration of this concept in action.

"If you run into the building and save someone, everyone thinks you're a hero," she says. "If you die, they'll ask 'Why did that guy go into a burning building?'"

Had Lane survived the alligator attack, the miracle would have made the news and images of the toddler wading in the lagoon would have been a highlight of the family photo album. (Search your vacation videos. Chances are high that you'll find Lane was not the first two-year-old to splash in potentially dangerous water on a hot night.)

The hard truth is that risk is a part of life, whether we're at home or abroad. But in the wake of this latest vacation horror story, let us take a moment to review a few key strategies parents can use to help them keep safety front of mind when they're traveling with their kids.

Read the six things to consider to keep safety top of mind when travelling with kids at National Geographic Travel.

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