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Lost children – what you can do to prevent children becoming lost


 

Preventing
Kids From Getting Lost

And
what to do if it happens!

 by
Alyssa
Dver

“I can’t find my child”
are possibly the most dreaded words for any parent or caregiver.  The panic that a parent feels is indescribable. 
The parent immediately worries that the child has been harmed or
abducted.  Luckily, most of
the time, the child is found physically unharmed and quickly reunited. 
However, even a momentary accidental wandering can leave indelible
trauma for both child and parent.

While most people do not voluntarily confess, 90% of families are
affected
. 
American children get lost over 2000 times each day in all kinds of
public places such as beaches, amusement parks, fairs, and airports.

Unfortunately, children do get lost. 
It is not a result of bad parenting or bad children, and as
“good” parents, we can be proactive and avoid or at least minimize the
profound trauma and possible physical harm that occurs when a child is
lost.  With these simple tips,
you can help keep your child safe wherever you go.


Put
Safe, Easily Accessible Contact Information on Your Child

While there is no substitute for parental / caregiver attention, the
best preparation is to put a note or tag with your cell phone number on
your child in an easily accessible place. 
This allows another adult to see and use it to quickly contact you
(or the caregiver that is out with your child).  

Young children, or some special needs children who cannot speak, should
have the identification visible so that another person can access it
easily without needing to undo the child’s clothing. 
If your child fidgets with the I.D., attach it to the back of their
clothing between their shoulder blades. 
Older children can carry the cell phone information in their pocket
if you are confident that they will be able to produce that information
when they need it.  You can
use a laminated card, a sticker, or one of the various I.D. products on
the market.  Never put your
home address information on the I.D.

identification label


Dress
Children in Bright, Special “Away from Home” Clothing

To help spot children easily, dress them in very brightly colored
external clothing such as a t-shirt, hat, or jacket.  Very bright yellow or green works best.  Some parents routinely dress themselves and their children in
the same color when they are going out to crowded places.  Bright
apparel can also serve as a key identifier for others helping you to find
your missing child.


Carry
a Recent Photo and Description of Each Child

Carrying
a recent photo of your child is one of the most important things you can
do for their safety.  On the
back of the photo, note the child’s eye color, hair color, height,
weight, and any birthmarks or other distinguishing marks. 
If your child is one of multiples, note that as well. 
Be sure to put your cell number on the back, too. 
Do this for each of your children. 
If you need assistance from other people to find your child, having
that photo and information available can make a real difference in a quick
and successful reunion.


Teach
Your Child to Ask Another Mommy for Help

A
scared child may not be able to find a trusted authority quickly. 
It is difficult to even describe a typical guard or officer. 
Teach your children to enlist help from another mother. 
Children intuitively know that a mommy is a woman with other kids.
This is one type of ‘stranger’ that you do want your child to talk to
if he / she needs help.  Also,
right before you arrive at a public place, remind your child what to do if
they get lost.


Reinforce
Good Behavior

When
you go out to a public place, even the supermarket, and you return without
your child getting lost, tell them that they  were good for staying with you the entire time while you were
out.  Positive reinforcement
is the best way to elicit the behavior you want from your child.

What to Do Immediately When Your Child Is Lost

Many
public places such as retail stores, amusement parks, and beaches now have
specific lost child procedures such as lock downs. 
If your child does get lost, try to remain calm and quickly find an
onsite employee to trigger the venue’s lost child process.  Don’t wander too far away from the spot where you last saw
your child.  Often the child
is still nearby.  If you sense
that your child is more than just temporarily lost, call the police.  It is better to call back to report that you have found your
child than to lose any precious time that can make a critical difference
in safely finding your child.

Celebrate, Don’t Berate When You Are Reunited

young boy on man's backOnce you
are reunited with your child, be sure to congratulate them for following the instructions you taught them in case
they get lost. 

Don’t yell
at your child for getting lost.  If
the child ever gets lost again, they may prefer to remain lost rather than
be yelled at again. 

If the
child did not follow the proper instructions when they got lost, discuss
the incident seriously but calmly and recall precisely how you both felt
while you were separated.  Often
times, the child doesn’t even think they
were missing at all – the child may think that you were the one
lost! 

Reiterate how important
it is that they don’t wander off next time and remind them about finding
another mommy for help.