Another month, another post in my In Case of Emergency series. We’ve had the following so far:
- What Every Mother Needs to Know In Case of an Intruder
- How to Protect Your Children in an Active Shooter Situation
- How to Handle Roadside Emergencies with Kids
The most magical place on earth. $17 grilled cheese, magical bathrooms, and electric light parade. But it was on our Epcot day that I got separated from the family.
I was busy wandering around and noticed I couldn’t find my mother or grandparents. I walked a little bit longer, heart pumping even faster. Finally, I asked a few employees if they’d seen my mom. To my 7-year-old brain, their strong accents meant they didn’t even speak English. I had no clue what they said and started wondering if this “magical trip” was, in fact, not magical at all but just sucky.
I walked outside of Spain – adios cruel country – and turned the corner to see my grandparents. They were not even disturbed as they drank their $27 bottles of water. I ran to them and after being united with my mom started to feel a bit better. It seems like it lasted an eternity, but it probably wasn’t more than a few minutes in total.
Or they don’t follow the adults who wander.
Or they mistake another person for their parent.
Statistics show 90 percent of families will experience losing a child in a public place at least once, and 20 percent said it has happened more than once, but the good news is that a majority of those children are quickly found, like mine, and not harmed. source
I want to break this post into 3 parts:
- how to prevent your child from getting lost in the first place and advanced precautions
- what you should do if they get lost
- what to teach your children to do if they get lost
Advanced Precaution and Prevention
Toddlers or preschoolers won’t be able to find you themselves if they are lost. Here are some things you can do beforehand to prevent them getting lost, or make it very easy for someone else to return them to you. Do these things if you’re going somewhere you know is busy.
- Sharpie your name and number on their forearm if you’re going somewhere very crowded.
- Dress your child in bright colors or a noticeable hat.
- For multiple children, assign each adult a particular child to watch after, like an adult-child buddy system.
- Make sure your children know your full name and telephone number if they are old enough.
- Teach your children to stay close to you, practice at home if they struggle with this.
- Practice Red Light Green Light with the kids so you are confident they know how to “stop” on command. This helps if you need to stop or turn back and they are trying to go on ahead.
- If they are carrying backpacks or purses, make sure their name and number is on the labels.
- Take a photo as you enter the busy area so you have a picture of the exact outfit your child is wearing.
- Give older kids a meeting place, say a big fountain or welcome center, in case you’re separated.
- Teach children to stay within arm’s reach of you. As you are teaching this, be quick to put your arm out and remind them they must – at all times – be able to reach you in one movement.
What to do if your child gets lost in public
Despite our best intentions, our children can still get lost. This is a terrifying thought, but one to consider beforehand to hopefully prevent it or, at best, make it a quick separation.
- Try not to panic. Okay, as if, but this is what all experts suggest. Panicking without thinking through your first response may cause you to act unwisely and miss something obvious.
- If you’re in a public establishment like an amusement park, mall, or airport, get in touch with security or the main office immediately. Find an employee or Google the number, but do this immediately. If you find your child in the next minute, they will not be upset you alerted them.
- If you have a bad feeling or don’t feel that alerting the security in that locale is enough (if it’s a large place, for example) don’t be scared to call the police.
- Stop for a moment, and calmly and slowly look around you.
- Don’t be afraid to loudly call your child’s name. If, on the very off chance there is a predator, alerting him that you are near and looking will actually be a deterrent.
- Try not to stray too far from where you lost your child unless you can leave another family member in your place while you search. Small children are not likely to have gone too far.
What to teach your child if they get lost
Just as you have thought of some precautions to prevent your child from getting lost,
- Make sure your children know to call your full name, not “mommy” but Rachel Norman, for example.
- Teach them to ask another lady with children, a mom. She’ll feel their plight urgently and will be a safer choice.
- Also, if a child is too nervous to approach another mother, teach them to search out an employee in that area. Begin teaching them, in normal errands, to find out who the employees are so this becomes second nature.
- Teach your kids how to ask for help. Just saying “ask for help” can be a nebulous concept for small children, even preschoolers, so teach them to say a phrase like, “I can’t find my mommy, can we call for help?”
- Make sure your children know not to wander around searching for you, but to find a safe place right near where they lost you.
- Practice the “what if” or “what would you do” game frequently (source). It will be hard at first, but in many scenarios practice asking your children what they would do if so-and-so happened. This will give you ample opportunity to teach your children how to respond in various scenarios.
I hope this never happens to you or your child and, thankfully, most of these situations end in a reunion in a short time. However, as always in the case of an emergency, better to be prepared than caught unawares.