Please share these tips with the children in your lives:
- Talk About It. Ask your child to name some places where they might get lost. Have them think of some places that your family frequents and then mention some ideas yourself. Stores, malls, zoo, amusement parks. Anywhere there are a lot of things to look at, and parents and kids may get distracted by different things. If there are a lot of people, it would be easy to get separated.
- Practice Yelling Your Name - Echo Method. The first thing a child can do when lost is yell really loud. Does your child know your first name? There are a lot of moms and dads out there, its OK to yell mom or dad, but it limits some confusion to yell a name. How many times have we turned to a cry of mom only to realize that its not our child? Wait a second or two to see if there is a response. If not, yell again. If you and your child are close enough to hear each other, take turns calling as you walk toward each other. My kids and I call this the Echo Method. You can practice this at home, I highly recommend staying INSIDE the house when you practice. What child wouldn't like to spend some time yelling with mom and dad? Emphasize that this is not a game, but a way for the child to learn to be a safe kid.
- Or, Stay Where You Are. What if the Echo Method doesnt work? As in the sledding incident, my daughter and I had both been calling to no avail. Assure your child that if they don't know what to do, stay right where they are, you will come to find them. Some kids will already know that they can go to the cash register or the customer service booth of a store. Pre-schoolers that haven't yet learned this will take interest in finding the cash registers of every store you frequent. Even very small children know that money is important, so they will understand this concept.
- Talk about Employee Uniforms with your child. Make sure that they understand that each place has its own outfit for employees to wear. This is good to know for stores as well as outdoor places like zoos and amusement parks. Your child will soon begin making their own observations if you start them on the road to employee identification by saying something like; The people that work at our grocery store all wear green aprons.
- What About If They Are Strangers. Some kids may want to know why its OK to talk to a stranger when they are lost since we just had a lesson on stranger danger. I explain it like this; if I am lost, I ask for directions from people that I don't know. I don't go anywhere with them, and I am very careful about who I ask to help me. If you are lost, it is different. Its important to stress that your child does not have to talk much. Their name or parents name and phone number if they know it, is plenty if they are not comfortable talking to someone they don't know.
- Also, never, never go out of the place where you are lost with anyone, no matter who they are. If you are lost at the grocery store, stay inside. If you are lost at the zoo, stay inside the zoo. Don't even go into the parking lot. One scenario might be: your child is lost at the mall, contacts a security guard to help. The security guard says that mom and dad have been located at their car in the parking lot. Should the child go? No! Its better to have the parents come back inside than to have a small child take a chance on trusting a stranger that far.
- Hold On! There are some good ways for your kid to be a safe kid and not get lost. Many of them you probably practice already. Have the child hang on to something. Hold hands, ride in or hold onto the shopping cart. If you're going to an amusement park or zoo take along a safety line. Tie a three or four foot long piece of rope to your mom or dad. Tie it to their belt loop or belt. Not to Mom's purse, she could put it down. (Not likely that we moms would forget our purses anywhere, but when you are tired and have had a long day, when you have worked long hours and your spouse has been out of town, when the top of the dryer has become the dresser for the entire family, you might.)
- Teach Name and Address. As hard as it may seem to teach a small child their name, address and phone number, we all try and do this with our kids as soon as it seems that they are able to remember that much information. If your child can remember a simple song without much trouble, try and use a familiar tune to help them memorize their name and address. At the age of four, my kids each had a song of their own, that helped them memorize these things as well as their birthdays. It was quite comical for all of us at times. Our favorite times to sing were in the car, and at bedtime.
- Don't Forget the Payphone. One thing that we don't often think of is the payphone. We know they are there and that if we are away from home we can use them. Some kids dont notice them and some kids think that you must have money to use them. The next time you and you little ones are out and about, point out payphones and tell them, that if they are really lost, and can't find someone to help them, they can use a payphone. There are phones in stores and malls everywhere we shop. Have the child see how many they can find. Stress that this would be a big emergency, as the police would have to come and help them. If they were really lost, it would be OK, but its not something they should try for fun.
Let your kids know this about payphones:
There are two different ways to use a pay phone without any money. You can dial 0 for the operator, or you can dial 911. If you are really, really lost and you can see a pay phone, you can call for the police to come and help you by dialing 911 or 0. The operator or the people at 911 can tell where you are if you are talking to them on a pay phone. If you have to use a pay phone when you are lost, do it! Listen to the grownup you are talking to and stay on the phone until someone comes to help you.
Talking about being lost with your child is a good way to let them know that you love them dearly and would never want them to be lost or hurt. Let them know that even though they may never get lost, you want to make a plan so that you will both know what to do, Just In Case.