Losing a child in a crowd is one of a parent's worst nightmares. And summer — with festivals, holidays, and lots of time spent outside — is prime time for losing track of a kid, even if only for a minute.
Fortunately, nearly every child who is lost, or even kidnapped (rare as that is), is found quickly and safely. And if you talk to your child about the importance of staying close by, being attentive, and avoiding potentially dangerous situations, the odds are much better that they won't get lost at all.
But if they do, you'll be reunited much more easily if your child knows who to talk to for help, and can tell that person your name and cell phone number.
Here are nine tips for preventing a frantic search for a lost little one at an event this summer — and for finding your child quickly if you do become separated in a crowd.
Most of the time, a child who is lost in a crowd is just that — lost. Stranger abductions are very rare; even in cases where a child is abducted, the culprit is usually a family member. Nevertheless, it is smart to be observant when you are out in crowds with your child. Vancouver Police recommends keeping watch if someone seems to be paying more attention than seems normal to your child, and never leave a small child unattended in public.
Dress your kid in bright colours
If your children are wearing a bright colour — especially an unusual one, or a distinctive pattern — they'll be easier to spot, even from a distance. Travelmamas suggests putting siblings or kids out together in matching colours, in order to make them easier to spot.
Make a plan
Talk to your children, as a family, about what should be done if anybody gets separated. Make sure they know relevant information like your name and cell number, and consider setting a go-to spot for anybody who gets separated from the group — ideally somewhere "large and high," Ottawa Police suggest. Tell kids about people they can go to for help if necessary, Travelmamas suggests: a police officer, for example, or lifeguard, or a parent out with kids.
If you are out with other adults, make sure you stay in communication about who is in charge of which kids, when. It is easy to end up in a situation where one parent thinks the other is responsible for the kids, and vice versa. Being clear and communicating regularly is a good way to prevent mix-ups like that from happening.
It is easy to end up in a situation where one parent thinks the other is responsible for the kids, and vice versa.
Communicate with your children as well: tell them who is in charge, give them an idea of what to expect at an event, and check in with them regularly if they are not always right beside you (playing at a park, for example).
Have a photo
Make sure you have a recent photo of your children on your cell phone, in case you need to show it to someone who can help find them. The best way to do this is to take a photo that day before you set out — then your child will be wearing the same clothing, so you don't have to worry about remembering that detail if you're stressed out or frightened.
Make sure the info is on them
Some children might not be able to remember an entire phone number reliably, or the spelling of a long name (theirs or yours). Write it on their arm with permanent marker, so it doesn't come off with water or sweat. Or take suggestion from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and write your child's name on their arm, then cover it with liquid bandage.
Consider mobile GPS
Mobile GPS devices aren't cheap, but they can give you some peace of mind. They are a bit large though, which could make them a hard sell for your kids. You could also try something like a Tile attached to their bag or shoelaces. You can also try Buddy Tags
Teach your child to kick up a fuss
Kids can find it confusing when strangers seem friendly — if they're kind, or they act like they know your child, are they really strangers? Most strangers are, of course, no risk to your child. However, teach your child to resist if anyone (stranger or otherwise) does try to take them somewhere against their will: yell, kick, scream, run, as the Vancouver Police suggest.
Discuss safety regularly
Make safety a regular topic of discussion with your child, as opposed to one you stress only when you are about to go somewhere crowded. This makes your kids more comfortable discussing it, and helps you have the discussion without scaring your children unnecessarily, Vancouver Police say.