Every parent worries about this. What happens if your child gets lost and you can’t find each other? You can however, teach your children what to do if they get lost so that your chances of finding each other safely and without incident are higher.
What Parents Can Do
There are a few things which parents can do to prepare for this situation.
Talk about It
Parents should start by preparing their children for the possibility of getting lost. This shouldn’t be a discussion which makes your kids scared and alarmed. Instead, approach it positively and calmly. You can start by letting them know that in crowded places, it might be possible to become separated from each other. Assure them that you will definitely be nearby, but that it would be a good idea for both you and the kids to know and understand what to do so that it will be easier to find each other.
Teach Your Kids Your Full Name
As soon as they can memorise it, teach your kids your real name. Not mummy or daddy, but your full name. In a crowded supermarket, you may not be able to tell who is calling you if many children are shouting for their daddies and mummies.
Sew or Give Your Kids some Form of Identification
Sew your name and your contact number into your kids’ clothes or write it inside their shoes. You can also buy an ID bracelet which lists your number for your kids to wear. This will help them in case they can’t remember your phone number or if they are unable to communicate on their own.
Create a Safety Plan
Whenever you go out, discuss what the safety plan will be. This is what they should do if all the other safety steps have been completed and they still haven’t found you. An example of a safety plan would be, if you are going to a supermarket, you might tell your kids that if they can’t find you, they should go to cashier number 1. If you are in an amusement park or on a nature hike, then the best safety plan might be for them to stay where they are as wandering around might only get them more lost.
If your kids are going out with another adult, for example on an excursion with friends or even a school excursion, tell them to ask the adult in charge what the safety plan will be.
Practice role playing with your kids. Pretend that they are lost and ask them to go through the 5 safety steps and the safety plan. Involve other adults or have kids play different roles to explore different situations. Children learn much better in a role play situation like this than if they are asked to simply remember what they should do.
5 Safety Steps for Kids
Teach your kids these 5 safety steps. They should follow them if they ever find themselves lost.
Tell your kids that once they realise that they are lost, they should stop what they are doing. They should not continue playing, walking or whatever it was that they were doing until they can find you again.
2. Find a Safe Place Nearby
Ask your children to look around and see if they are standing in a safe place. Safe places are those which are not in the way of traffic, near dangerous machines, large bodies of water or unstable areas. In other words, ask your kids to make sure that they are not standing in a place where an accident might happen. If they are, ask them to move a safe place nearby.
3. Call Mummy or Daddy’s Real Name
Once they are in a safe place, ask them to look around. Sometimes you might be nearer than they think you are and they could just have lost sight of you temporarily.
If your children have mobile phones, they can call you to tell you they are lost. However, sometimes mobile signals don’t go through, phones get lost or phones don’t work. In the case of young children, they may not own or know how to operate a phone either. So you need to have another plan for when you can’t be contacted.
Tell your kids that if they can’t call you and they can’t see you, then they should call your name out loudly. They should call your full name and not mummy or daddy. Tell them that it is fine to shout your name out loudly even if they feel embarrassed or if they are in a place like the library.
Shouting out your name is safer than staying quiet. Most predators will look for children who can be led away unnoticed. A shouting child attracts attention and will usually be avoided.
4. Look for a Mother with Kids
Statistically, the safest person your kids can approach for help is another mother with kids. Men are less likely to help for fear of being accused of being a predator. Whilst older kids may be able to approach service staff or other designated help personnel, younger kids may have trouble distinguishing what different uniforms mean.
Ask your child to look for a mother with kids nearby, and approach her. They should tell her clearly and firmly “I am lost, can you please help me to call my mother, her name is … and this is her number”. They can show her your phone number and tell her that you asked them to stay nearby until she finds them.
5. Use Your Safety Plan
If your kids don’t see a mother with kids who can help nearby, and they have completed all the first safety steps then they should follow the safety plan which you had agreed on.