A couple months ago, we went to an elementary school carnival with the kids for some fun family time. There was a good turnout and the school was packed with people. We decided to take a break from the carnival games and took the kids to the playground. Kingston & Kasia were playing on the slides and climbing all around and of course ran in opposite directions. Herbie & I followed Kasia because she needed more assistance and we assumed that Kingston saw where we were going. Then, from the corner of my eye, I see Kingston frantically running towards the crowd of people at the fair. Herbie took off after him and I followed behind with Kasia. Kingston had tears streaming down his eyes and was completely freaked out. Poor kid thought that we left him at the playground when he couldn’t see us at the bottom of the slide where we were standing last. It scares me to think about what could have happened if I didn’t catch him running in the opposite direction from the corner of my eye. This incident definitely taught me a couple of valuable lessons.
- We should never assume that our kids can see us. Most of the time, kids feel like their lost when their parent is only a few feet away.
- We need to teach our kids never to wander away from where they first became lost. Meaning, Kingston should have known to stay at the playground instead of running away since that was the last place he was with us.
- We also need to teach our kids to make noise by yelling & screaming to attract attention so someone can come to their rescue. Kingston ran away from the playground without making a noise so I didn’t know that he was scared and felt lost. He should have stayed by the slide and yelled for us.
Here are a few more helpful tips to avoid potentially dangerous situations with your kids in large crowds.
- If your child has the tendency to wander off, write your cell phone number on their arm with a pen. DO NOT write their name on their arm or on any piece of clothing, backpack, etc. that is visible to strangers. You don’t want them to be an easy target for predators.
- Carry an ID card with your child’s information and current photo with you at all times. Pass on the ID card to caretakers or family members. Click here to create your own card.
- If your child gets lost in a store, immediately alert security or an employee so they close off all the exits.
- Always make a mental note of what your child is wearing before you go out. Better yet, take a photo of them on your cell phone before you walk out the door.
- Teach your child to recognize “safe strangers” such as women with children, cashiers or vendors.
- When at the beach, make sure you pick a distinct landmark such as a lifeguard tower or flag pole to setup your stuff so your kids can easily find you.
- Setup practice scenarios with your kids so they know what to do if they get separated from you.
For more resources, please visit The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.