It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon. My boys and I are walking through a very crowded butterfly garden at our local Zoo.
I start feeling suffocated by the warm, humid air, and the overcrowded space. So, I tell my four year old to start heading to the door. He’s ahead of me and I’m pushing the stroller behind. We start to maneuver through the crowd trying to find our way out.
My son squeezes between a crowd of adults and he’s gone. I try to push through with the stroller, but no one is paying attention, I can’t get through. I can’t see my son.
My heart starts racing, I search the crowd for my little boy among the giant adults ahead of me. I’m panicked. I try to push my way through, I say pleasantries like “excuse me, can I get through?”, but no one is moving.
Tears start welling up and I start screaming his name. My screaming causes the crowd to break and I spot him.
He’s standing there, frozen, fear on his face. I rush up to him and he immediately starts crying as relief sets in.
I feel nothing but relief and heart crushing guilt. You see…
I never talked about what to do if he got lost in public. A total parent fail.
He didn’t have one of those emergency contact tattoos or sheet of paper in his pocket with my phone number.
I’m not sure he’d be able to tell anyone my name. He can sometimes remember my first name, but most of the time I’m just Mommy.
He has no idea who to talk to to ask for help, or where to go.
I totally failed at giving him the tools he would need if he was ever lost.
I used to safety plan with all of my clients when I was working as a therapist, so why didn’t it occur to me to do it with my own child? I guess I just got complacent and didn’t think about it. So silly…I know.
So I decided it was time for a little lesson. These are the steps that I went through to teach him what to do if he gets lost.
How to prepare your child for being lost.
- Freeze: If your child finds himself lost without his parent, teach him to freeze. Remind him that you will be looking for him so he needs to stay where he is.
- Find a helper: The best person for your child to look to for help is another mother with children. Police officers are not always around, but everywhere you turn, there’s a Mom with kids. And most mothers are more than willing to help out a lost child.
- What to say: When a child is lost, they are probably really scared and upset. So, it’s important that they know what to say to that kind mother that they’ve found. Teach them to say something simple like “I’m lost”, or “I can’t find my mommy”.
- Know the Info: It’s important that your child know names and phone numbers of his parents or caregivers. I like to teach this info in a song because it’s easier for a child to remember that way. It’s always good to have the info written down somewhere on your child just in case. Even if your child knows the info, they maybe too upset to remember it or tell the safe person. I linked to some great products and DIY solutions at the end of this post.
It’s seems pretty simple huh?
But this is not something you can just go over once and be done. This is something that children need to be reminded of.
I went over all 3 of these with my son on our way back from the Zoo that day, and we’ve discussed it a few times since. My plan is to remind him of these rules before we go to any public place where he could get lost.
Hopefully, he’ll never get lost, but if he does, I want him to be prepared.
What other tips do you have to help your children if they get lost?