Losing your child in a crowded place is every parent's worst nightmare. Our precious little ones may not know what to do, where to go or who to ask for help in these sorts of situations. Often, kids will be panicked and upset while we're frantically asking every security member in the mall if they've seen them. The prospect is often too frightening for us to think about, but it's essential to discuss it with children so that they know what to do should it happen. According to the U.S Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, one child goes missing every 40 seconds, but only 115 children a year are never returned to their families.
Here's what you can discuss with your little ones to keep them on the good side of the statistics.
It might sound simple, but teaching your kids to stay put is an important safety tip. Most small children are prone to wandering off at the best of times, but when they're looking for mom or dad they can go even further astray. By teaching them to stay in place as soon as they realize they've lost you, you're more likely to find them sooner.
Stranger danger awareness - with a twist
According to Parents, one of the biggest mistakes we make as parents is how we talk about stranger danger. Most of us teach our kids not to talk to anybody they don't know, but to children, a "stranger" largely implies someone that isn't nice to them. Samantha Wilson, a former police officer and child safety advocate says, "We have to be more careful about how we explain the concept of strangers to children. " Delving deeper into the concept of strangers and getting our kids in the habit of having to ask us first before they go anywhere can be an important preventative measure.
Teach your child to call out your birth name
If you're in a crowded mall full of families with children, it's unlikely that you'll be able to notice someone shouting "mommy." However, you're much more likely to hear someone call your name in a large crowd - it's just how our brains are wired. Experts say that children should learn both the first and last name of their parents or caregivers so they can both shout it out and give it to adults trying to help them.
Ask another mom for help
Once your child has covered staying put and crying out your name, the best thing they can do next is to ask another mom for help. If your child isn't old enough to know how to ask a shop assistant or a police officer, then the easiest way to ensure their safety is to teach them to ask another mom with children. According to statistics, moms with kids will ensure a lost child gets back to its family, and are the safest people to approach.
Having talks like this with young children can be tough, especially as they often don't understand. You can try acting out the scenario so they get a better grasp of the situation, but remember to focus on the positive outcomes rather than the negative.