A missing child. It’s every parents worst nightmare. You’re out in a crowd with your kids and suddenly your child is gone. If they get lost does your kiddo know what to do? Prepare your lost child with easy safety tips.
No One Wants an Unprepared Missing Child.
As parents we are always keeping kids safe. As soon as we see that positive pregnancy test we are shopping for a child safety kit and baby proofing. We buy the safest car seats and learn how to properly install them. Babysitters are interviewed, day cares are researched and finding a pediatrician becomes the topic of evening discussion. Your kids get lost. Do they know what to do? No one want to realize they have a missing child. As a paramedic I have encountered missing children and have safety tips to make travel with kids easier.
Safety Tip #1- Teach your kids to memorize parent info.
I cannot overstate the importance of a child knowing basic identifying information about themselves and their parents. In my experience most children can start repeating the full names of both parents or guardians, phone number, where they live (street, city, and state), what school they go to, where their parents or guardians work around the age of three. This information can be invaluable when it comes to reuniting a lost little one with their frantic parents. Don’t forget that we live in a very different world now than when many of us were growing up. Your child can also memorize things like twitter handles, email addresses, or Instagram profiles. These may be easier for a child to remember and in some cases may actually be a faster way to contact you.
Safety Tip #2- Put your contact info on your child.
Let’s face it, scary times are scary. It’s hard to remember things when you’re scared. Your little one may be able to recite information with the well-rehearsed ease of the ABC’s but could freeze up when lost among strangers. This is why marking kids with your info (your name, phone number, and other contact information) is important. The Clovis California Police Department had an excellent safety tip on how to do this with an ink pen and “liquid Band-Aids” to create a waterproof seal.
Personally, a cheaper method would be to use a Sharpie marker on the kid’s upper arm under their shirt sleeve. Accessing the information is easy but it still remains hidden from casual viewing. Don’t forget to include pertinent medical information! Trust me if your little one is a diabetic or has a deadly allergy to peanuts, you WANT people to know this. First responders everywhere will appreciate the friendly heads up.
TIP: There is a variation of this method that involves writing pertinent information on a piece of tape and sticking in on the inside of the child’s clothing. Kids tend to sweat a lot and are generally pretty gross. The tape may not survive the trip. Go with a Sharpie and mark them up.
Safety Tip #3- Teach your lost child who to ask for help.
Would your lost kid know who to ask for help? Though this may seem obvious to us it is NOT obvious to a child. Frequently schools call in paramedics to speak to kids about safety. These are tips we share with the kids.
First Choice: Find someone in a public safety uniform (Police, Fire, EMS, Security). Have the kids practice pointing out uniforms in daily life. Given that Police, Fire, and EMS are not likely to be standing around at your favorite tourist destination (it tends freak people out), the child may need to go to plan “B”.
Second Choice: Plan B includes anyone wearing an employee uniform or carrying a walkie talkie. The walkie talkie is a great thing for kids to hone in on and may be a more identifiable marker than any type of employee’s uniform. Teach them to go to the cash register if they are in a store.
Third Choice: If none of these options can be found, find another family with small children. Few parents would be able to ignore a child that walks up to them and announces “I’m lost, can you help me find my mommy and daddy?”.
TIP: Rehearse this scenario frequently. Have your children identify their first, second, and third options for who to approach if they get lost or separated. Teach them what to look for and where to go for help. Practice the actual conversation with the children on real life police officers, fire fighters, or EMS personnel. Trust me they will be happy to assist and think worlds of your parenting preparedness. Just introduce yourself first so they know this is a “training drill” otherwise you may get a whole lot of attention that you weren’t looking for.
Safety Tip #4- Reinforce the importance of “line of sight.”
Adults get distracted. Little ones like to wander. Make it a well-known rule that when in public children are always to remain in sight. Basically “If you can’t see me, then I can’t see you, and I can’t keep you safe.” This one will take constant monitoring and enforcing. Lay down the law and don’t give an inch. Follow this one rule and you will likely avoid having a missing child in the first place.
Safety Tip #5- Teach stranger danger.
A child’s normal fear of strangers may be diluted when touring amusement parks or other tourist attractions. Well-meaning older couples and others who want to strike up a friendly conversation while waiting in line tend to bombard children with questions. Though these interactions are often quite pleasant for both child and older folks, it ultimately serves to dilute the importance of remembering the time honored tenet of DO NOT TALK TO STRANGERS.
TIP: Want to avoid crowds at Disney? Here are the best times to visit.
Safety Tip #6- The world is beautiful and fun, but monsters are real.
This particular point is something that a lot of parents may be uncomfortable discussing with their children. However it is EXTREMELY important to do so. Level with your kids about the dangers of the world. Talk about child abductions and kidnappings. Of course, tailor these lessons to each child. Make sure your children understand that these things (though rare) do happen.
There IS an appropriate time and place for physical aggression. That time and place is anywhere a stranger is trying to grab them or convince them to go somewhere without their parents. They need to fight, kick, scream, bite, and do “whatever you have to do” to get away from the threat. Screaming things like “YOU AREN’T MY MOMMY” or “I DON’T KNOW YOU” will likely illicit an intervention by others in the immediate area. We constantly program kids towards nonviolence and passivity (which are good things). School teaches kids to avoid physical confrontations. They NEED to know that the rules go out the window when it comes to protecting themselves. Think about what it would take for you intervene and teach kids to say that.
TIP: “Monsters are real, and sometimes they dress up as humans” can be an effective way to grab your child complete and undivided attention. After all, isn’t this true? What else could you call the people who perpetrate the crimes we have all witnessed on the evening news? Don’t go too far down this road with wee ones, but a healthy amount of fear can be good.
7.) “Wow Honey… that outfit is ‘unique’”.
If your kids are like mine they create interesting clothing combos showcasing their highly individualistic sense of fashion. Going to a public place with a large gathering? Let them dress themselves and encourage creativity. Kids have the rest of their lives to bow to the pressure of crushing social conformity. Let them be “expressive” while they still can. Plus if you need to describe a missing child’s outfit “pink tutu, dino shirt and yellow rain boots” will set your child apart in a crowd.
TIP: Snap a photo of your kiddo on your phone. If you need it you’ll have not only a recent photo of kiddo but a record of what they were wearing.