When I was little, I was separated from my dad for a few minutes in a department store. We had stopped to look at something and I didn’t notice that he had moved on. That was one of the scariest experiences of my young life. When my dad found me, I don’t think he ever hugged me so tightly. We both learned a lesson that day.
Children have a tendency to wander off or daydream (like I did) without thinking about the consequences. Because it’s an emergency situation (which nobody ever asks for), the best defense is preparation. You and your child both have big roles in preventing a separation, or should he become lost, reuniting as quickly and safely as possible.
Teach your child:
- His full name, address and your cell phone number. Tuck a note with his info into his pocket and tell him to only show someone if he gets lost. Being able to personally identify himself and where he’s from is invaluable when other adults are searching for you
- Your name. Many parents don’t think about this, but if someone recognizes that he’s lost, they’ll ask him who his parents are
- To stay put. The best thing he can do is stay still. You can retrace your steps and find him faster than if he searches for you. He could end up even more lost
- To ask for help. When you’re at a store or at a public event their employees, guards and staff wear similar clothing. Point out the outfits to look for as soon as you arrive. Also, teach him to identify moms with children. These people will be able to swiftly and safely help him locate you
- If he clearly sees you, to call out “Mom” and hurry straight to you. Sure, 10 moms will turn around, but you’ll be one of them
Prepare ahead of time:
- Write or sew your child’s name inside his shirt collar
- If you’re going to a crowded event, theme park or zoo, put your children in similar, brightly colored shirts that are easy to spot in a crowd
- Apply a temporary, waterproof ID tattoo with your cell phone number written on it to his arm. Never put the child’s name on it as it should be in plain view
- Always carry a current photograph of your child with you. If you’re going on an all-day shopping trip or heavy-populated event and have a cell phone that takes pictures, snap a shot of him that day in his current outfit
- Don’t allow a child to go to the restroom or concession stand by himself. Older children should always go in groups
- Train yourself to do a “head check” every time you stop at a rack, kiosk or booth. Confirm that your little man is with you when you get there and before you leave
In the event that you and your child get separated:
- Stay calm. Panicking will slow down the process. Keep your head clear, so you can concentrate on finding your child
- Find the closest employee or security official and tell them that your child is lost, he will notify other personnel. Show him your son’s picture and give him your child’s description including: name, age, gender, and a description of the clothing and shoes he’s wearing. The shoes may seem insignificant, but people who abduct children often bring a change of clothes with them to throw over the existing outfit. They seldom take the time to change a child’s shoes
- Retrace your steps. Pan each area carefully before moving on
There’s nothing so precious as a child. If you prepare yourself and your child for public safety, trips out will be less stressful and everyone will be on the same page. If a situation should present itself, you’re both playing for the same team and he’ll quickly be safely in your loving arms again.
Jessi Arias-Cooper is the senior writer and an editor for Advice4Parenting.com. She is a work-from-home mother of 3 boys and has been married for 10 years. If she had time for hobbies and interests outside of parenting and keeping house, they would be jewelry making, baking, watching bad B-movie horror flicks and creative writing . If you have a question for Jessi, click here.