You know that feeling of terror that hits you when you’re at the mall or in the grocery store and you suddenly realize you’re missing your kid. You turn to your other children or your spouse and ask “where’s Johnnie?” and your question is met with blank stares. Your kid is lost!
Your mind races. Where would he go? Where could he be? You frantically retrace your steps. Then you see him, crying while some store employee tries to question him.
What if Johnnie was lost while on vacation? In a busy place like Disneyland or The Mall of America. Or even more challenging, in a different country that speaks another language.
There are safety measures you can take to help lost kids get found sooner.
Here are 5 tips to reunite parents and kids when separated while traveling:
1. A lanyard with contact information.
When a child is lost it is extremely stressful for both parent and child. Important pieces of information can slip a child’s mind, like a parent’s full name or cell phone number or what hotel they are staying at.
Provide this information for your child on a card they can carry with them whenever you venture out. It could be on a lanyard worn under clothing or in a plastic sleeve carried in a pocket. If you are in a country with a different language ensure you write the information card in the language spoken where you are visiting.
2. Carry a whistle.
When visiting a theme park or a busy tourist venue crowds can get bigger and be more crowded. Giving your little one a whistle to blow should you separated in a crowd is a great way to narrow down their location. A whistle is a way to help lost kids in many situations and in a large crowd it is the most effective way to keep track of someone who is small and difficult to see among a sea of big people.
3. Take a picture.
Your child is lost! You are feeling frantic and stressed. It can be hard to describe your son or daughter accurately when your mind is racing. Take a photo of your child with your smart phone or your camera before you set out. Use a device you will have with you that day. That way you will have a perfectly accurate description to refer to. Ensure the photo shows clear details in facial expression and the clothing your child is wearing. No silly faces or poses, just clear straight on and profile shots. This could help you or the authorities see your child sooner.
4. Establish a meeting place.
When visiting any tourist site or theme park there is always something that stands out. Use an easy to find location or landmark as a meeting spot and be specific right to the exact spot they should go.
Monuments like the castle at Disneyworld are huge. Make sure you discuss a specific place outside the castle so you don’t need to search a large area. Kids feel better and more confident knowing where they can find Mom or Dad when lost. Tell your kids they need to wait at the meeting place until you arrive; make it clear it may take a while.
5. Communication and follow up.
Talk about the plan before leaving to clearly establish rules and proper behavior so kids will remember the tools they are carrying to stay safe. Continued communication during an outing is prevention in itself. It keeps awareness high when exploring a new place and that’s what will keep everyone together and having fun.