This year many of us will be out and about with our children. Lots of the places we visit may be new to us, many places will be crowded, there will probably be quite a few things that grab our child’s interest, and they’ll want to go explore. This means that the chances of a child running off, going out of sight, being swept up in a crowd, losing their way … are considerably heightened. SCARY huh?
So we need to be prepared, as a family, so that the chances of a child getting lost is reduced – and if they do get lost then you and your child know EXACTLY what to do so that you can be reunited as quickly as possible. You need to have a PLAN, and I’m here to help you with that.
Summer also brings with it the dangers of water for our children, many people will be around a pool or at the beach – especially with the weather being so hot. It is essential that, when around a pool, you know where your children are EVERY SECOND. It’s not enough to give them rules of conduct, or instruct them never to go near the water if you’re not around (though of course, you should give rules and instructions). Children can get into danger so very quickly and unexpectedly around water – so be there.
Beaches too are a danger. They are often very crowded and, unless you have a flashing 10-foot tall arrow pointing at your space, if children go off to paddle or build a sandcastle – they could easily lose you. There is also the danger of playing in the sea, even if your children are a little more independent and have life jackets on – the current always carries us some way along the beach. So when they get out of the water, they aren’t always in the same place as where they went in and can easily get disorientated and lose you.
Always have a PLAN!
Because if you’ve talked about things together – what you will each do IF things go wrong, then you are more able to find each other WHEN things go wrong.
Before You Go Out
- Take a photo of what your child is wearing. If your child does get lost, you’ll be able to show people the photo, or describe what they are wearing (when we’re panicking, it’s not always easy to recall these kinds of details)
- Sit down together and talk about the rules of the day – no-one wanders off/keep hold of my hand/we have a meet-up point … so everyone is reminded of how to keep safe
- Tell them – if you can’t see Mummy or Daddy, or whoever you’re with – STAND STILL and SHOUT. NEVER RUN
- If you are inside somewhere, shop/museum/leisure park – they must know that they NEVER EVER go outside
- If you are outside, they must know that they NEVER EVER cross a road or go near water
- Write your phone number on your child’s arm with a Sharpie (it will come off eventually!!), or use an ID bracelet with your number on. That way, if your child is found, you can be contacted immediately
- Remind your child who to look for in an emergency. Make sure that your child understands that POLICE OFFICERS/LIFEGUARDS and workers in recognisable uniforms, as well as parents with young children, are people who can help (rather than seeing them as a danger)
When You Get There
- Remind EVERYONE of the rules again – ask the questions and get them to feed the answers back to you. “Do we run?” “NO, we STAND STILL and SHOUT”
- Check that your telephone number is still on your child’s arm/wristband
- Identify a ‘MEET-UP SPOT', just in case. It should be easy to find - information desks or customer services desks are usually well placed. This is for older children only, and only if they have stood still for five minutes without being found. Remember that the most important thing your child should do is STAY STILL and SHOUT as soon as they realise you are not near them
The First Minute
- As soon as you realise that your child is not there STAND STILL and SHOUT their name, as loud as you can. Don’t worry about everyone looking at you, that’s a good thing, shout it out!
- As you do this, tell the people near you that your child is missing and ask them to help look – if you have family or friends with you, send them looking too. If there are women near you, tell them and ask them to look – and KEEP SHOUTING
- Ask someone to go to the meet-up point to see if your child is there. If you’re on the beach, get someone to go and tell the lifeguard
After 5 minutes
- KEEP STANDING where you are and now contact the authorities – the police or the staff at the place where you are. You will need to give an EXACT description of your child
- KEEP SHOUTING or get someone close to you to shout your child's name. Check that people are still looking for your child
- When you have done all this, ask someone to KEEP STANDING where you are and SHOUT your child’s name. This should preferably be a member of staff, or a woman
- Now you can go to liaise with staff and authorities. Send as many people looking as you can – you have the photo to show them, on your phone. Make sure announcements are going out if possible
It sounds horrendous, doesn’t it? And it is – but it probably won’t get this far at all. You probably will never need to do this. Ever. Mostly because you have already had the discussion, have gone over the rules together and MADE A PLAN with your child to prevent them ever getting lost.
But, if it does – you’ll know what to do to get your child right back by your side quickly and effectively. Because you BOTH KNEW WHAT TO DO.
Having a PLAN also makes you all feel less worried and anxious when out and about – so you can all look forward to new experiences, and enjoy them more while you’re there.
My ‘How To Keep Safe … in a sometimes scary world’ children’s book has a downloadable ebook, with resources to help you make plans together and keep your children safe.