- Create a safety plan – When heading out to do an activity always have a quick discussion on what the safety plan will be incase somebody gets lost. For younger children this might include them staying where they are so that gives you a chance to find them. For older children, it might include a meeting place (at a specific ride at the amusement park, by the checkout at a store etc).
- Have a good look around – Often children think they are lost, when in fact the adults they came with are still within sight. Teach your child to stop, not panic, and have a good look around.
- Call out – If they cannot see the grown-up they came with, they should yell out their name in case they are still in earshot.
- Ask for help – If they are unsure what to do now, or can’t act on your safety plan (they can’t find the meeting spot) they now need to ask for help. Although we teach our children not to engage with strangers, in a situation like this they need to know how to look for the “safest stranger”. Discuss with your children that in this situation finding a police officer, or security guard (someone in a uniform) is typically their best option. If they can’t see anyone like that, their next best bet is someone who has a reason to be there. If they are lost in the grocery store, this person would be the cashier or a store employee. If they got lost at the park an option would be a mom at the park with her children.
- Don’t leave the premises – Children should know not to leave the building, store, park with the stranger they are getting help from. The only time this rule should be broken is during an emergency (fire, an evacuation etc)
- Ask to use cell phone – Most people have cellphones so make sure your child knows to ask the “safe stranger” to borrow their phone to call you. If your child is old enough, make sure they memorize your phone number. If your child is young, you can write it on their arm and paint over it with liquid Bandaid to make it waterproof when going on outings where getting lost could become reality. Ex (water park, amusement park etc)
- In the great outdoors – A lot of these tips are great when is a busy environment, but what if your child gets lost on hike or out in nature while camping? In this situation, they are best to stay put as soon as they realize they are separated from the group. They need to know that people will come looking for them so they need to be shouting for help as this will make the task easier.
- Ticket stubs – If you’re with your kids somewhere that has assigned seats — a theater, concert, or baseball game, for example — give them their seat ticket to slip in their pockets.
Although extremely helpful, cellphone service can also be unreliable. If your safety plan includes the use of cellphones make sure you have a backup plan in case your phone runs out of a charge, or there isn’t service.
What Parents Should Do
- Always carry a current photo of your child; it may help staff members locate her faster.
- Find out if the stores you frequent have a Code Adam policy, which means that the store secures and monitors every exit once a child is lost.
- Know exactly what your child is wearing before you leave the house.
- If you do get separated, retrace your steps to where you were last with your child. If you don’t see her, got to your safe meeting place. Contact the security office. If he/she’s not found within ten minutes, call the police.