Losing a child is a parent's worst nightmare, but preparing for the possibility is a must. No one wants to think about what it would be like not knowing where their child is. However, it can happen. Planning ahead can reduce the likelihood that your child is separated from you, and it can help you find her quickly.
How To Prepare Ahead
If you're heading out to a crowded area like an amusement park or concert venue, realize that it can be easy to lose sight of your child. Dress him in bright or neon colors, sticking to one color if you have multiple kids. This will help you spot them easily in the crowd.
Take a digital photo of your child on the day of the event. This will help any safety officers know who to search for in the event that he becomes lost. Some theme parks will be able to send a digital photo out to all security staff instantly, so they'll be able to begin their search immediately.
Choose a meeting place if you have older children who can easily locate and return to a specified location. Select a large structure that can be seen from afar so that it's more likely for a child to spot it an head in the right direction.
For younger children or kids who may not remember how to get to a meeting place, teach them to stay in one place. If they lose you, they should not go looking for you. This can lead to them wandering farther away and becoming harder to find. As soon as they realize they are lost they should remain where they are and seek help.
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Make sure your kids know how to ask safe people for help. Child abduction is very rare, but you don't want to take any chances. Children should be taught to ask a staff member, security guard, or uniformed police offer for help if they are lost. They can also be taught to reach out to a woman with children if they cannot find any officials right away.
Have your children memorize your first and last name and your phone number, including the area code. Remember that small children may forget their parents' names, since they don't use them, and practice at home.
For children who cannot memorize parents' names and phone numbers, put this information in written form somewhere on them. Maybe a bracelet tag or a slip of paper in a zipped pocket. Only write your names down, not the child's. Abductors can convince a child that they are familiar and trustable by calling them by their names. A lost child can become frightened and flustered, so err on the side of caution and include written info even if your child has your information memorized.
What To Do When You Realize Your Child is Missing
As soon as you notice that your child is out of your sight, start yelling his name. Even though it's best not to write the child's name on him, to avoid any possibility of kidnappers pretending to know him, you should still call it out loud. She will likely be within earshot and hear you, and an abductor is actually less likely to act when there is a commotion.
If you are near any bodies of water, check there first and alert any and all lifeguards. If you don't find your child within a minute, inform a staff member. Most amusement parks or other crowded areas have a lost child policy that will go into effect as soon as it is reported. Often known as "Code Adam", these policies will help keep your child safe by immediately beginning inspections at all exits and searching through any dangerous areas.
After five minutes, contact the police. Err on the side of caution and report a lost child as an emergency sooner rather than later. Most of the time you'll find the child before the police arrive, but it is worth it for your child's safety to call after five minutes.
Hopefully, you'll never lose your child, but if you ever do, being prepared will help get her safe and sound sooner.