We’ve all been there when out and about with the kids – turned our head for a minute only to discover when we turn back that our child is nowhere in sight. Instant fear sets in and the panic only rises the longer it takes to find them.
When it’s happened to me I’ve done a frenzied scout-around and thankfully found my child close by, usually hiding from me, thinking it was a great game, under a clothes rack or some such. But if they’d moved away from me what would I have done then?
What to do in this situation has been highlighted by blogger Vicky Hamilton-Ross who shared on her blog Oliver’s Outings the story of the brilliant way things were handled when her four-year-old nephew Jake went missing.
Jake had been out with his mum Lucinda at a crowded beach in Bournemouth and became separated from his mum when she let go of his hand to pick something up at a stall.
“It was just a couple of minutes, if that,” said Vicky, but when Lucinda turned back Jake was nowhere in sight.
“While trying to stay calm and telling herself he wouldn’t go far she started to look around and call his name, still couldn’t see him,” Vicky wrote.
An army cadet who was stewarding the event spotted Lucinda and asked what had happened.
“He wasted no time and himself and the other guys stewarding started shouting ‘we are looking for a boy. He is 4yrs old, blonde and in a red T shirt. Have you seen him?’
“They repeated this loudly and constantly as they covered the areas nearby.”
Within 15 minutes Jake was found and reunited with his very relieved mother. However, Lucinda’s relief quickly turned to horror when Jake told her a man had offered to take him to see a rocket ship. Despite knowing to never talk to strangers it had only taken one enticing proposition for Jake to abandon everything he’d been taught.
While it might seem obvious that you’d call out for your child by name, what made this search far more effective was that they added specific details about the boy’s age and what he looked like – and a number of people called this out “loudly and consistently”.
It takes a village, right?
“By very quickly shouting out the description of Jake and that he was lost, it meant the guy couldn’t leave the beach without being spotted, so he just left Jake and walked away,” Vicky concludes.
“I would urge every parent to do this immediately, even if you suspect they are just round the corner, what’s the worst that could happen, you are slightly embarrassed because they hadn’t gone anywhere? Well worth that risk.”
Not being able to find your child in a crowded public place is every parents’ worst nightmare. Here are some other things you can do to help prevent your child from getting separated from you:
When you’re talking to your child about stranger danger teach them that if they do get lost to ask for help from a mum with children. Women with kids are statistically less likely to be predators and more likely to stay with your child until she finds you.
Talk to your child about stranger danger rules: don’t talk to strangers and stay beside you when you’re out. Role play scenarios – what could they do if a stranger offered to show them something or asked them to ‘help find their kitten’?
Dress your child in bright colours so they’re easy to spot in a crowd.
With really little children give them a choice – they either stay buckled in the stroller or they hold your hand.
Write your phone number on your child’s arm.