Considering that seven out of ten kids get lost at some point in their lives, talking to them about this common (and traumatic) childhood event should be high on every parent’s to-do list.
The talk is sometimes difficult (especially if we’re repeating the misinformation we were given as kids like “find a police officer” which is usually impossible). So, to make it easier, here are the top 5 things your kids need to know now, should they get lost:
1. Know your parent’s name and phone number.
If you ask most kids under 3 what their parents names are, they’ll tell you, “Mama” or “Daddy.” That won’t cut it when a kind stranger is trying to get information out of a panicked kid. Ask them, tell them, and practice your names over and over so they remember them. Make learning your phone numbers easier by turning them into songs.
2. Stay close to your safe adult.
The rule is: if you can see them, they can see you. This goes a long way in preventing children getting lost.
3. If you get lost, stop where you are and yell.
Kids aren’t often allowed to really yell as loud as possible but this is exactly what they need to do. Let them practice this. Have them yell your name or “mom/dad” over and over. Let them know that being loud will help you hear where they are.
4. Look for a mom with kids and ask for help.
This is where it helps to know your name and phone number because you want that mom to try to call you. Why should they look for a mom with kids and not a dad with kids? We asked the same question of safety experts. It’s because statistically, this is the safest option. If the child is in a store, they can also ask a person at the cash register for help.
5. Know that you will be found.
Being lost is a common childhood event and almost all the kids who go lost are found (and we won’t talk about the few who aren’t). Kids should be told: don’t hide because you’re scared. Don’t go searching the area. And certainly don’t leave the area (aka – don’t leave a store to wander the parking structure). Take a deep breath and remember your safety steps.
We know it isn’t easy to talk about these things, especially if your kids are already anxious. But talking about these things actually helps to ease the anxiety because you’re giving kids tools that will make them feel empowered in the situation rather than helpless.
And parents, should they get lost — as nerve-wracking as it is, please don’t yell at or punish your kids. Getting lost is traumatizing enough for them. And remember, these things rarely happen twice — especially if you’ve taught them these steps.
To help everyone learn these steps (and to encourage closeness and trust on the topic) check out The Mother Company’s book When Lyla Got Lost (and Found) — ideal for kids ages 2-6.