Last week, I lost Dexter. It turns out that he was just hiding behind a bush from me but I can honestly tell you, I panicked. I had to call my sister in law out (we were near her house) and she came running across the field with no shoes on to stay with the girls in the buggy while I ran around like a headless chicken screaming his name and asking all of the strangers if they had seen him. In reality, he was only missing for a couple of minutes but at the moment, it felt like so much longer.I’ve been thinking about this a lot since and have put together a list of ideas for ways you can prevent your child from going missing and keep them safe. Because let’s face it, kids are curious, kids are inquisitive little beings and without thinking, they will occasionally just wander off and as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure!
Preventing your child going missing:
Teach them about safe strangers.
Safe strangers are people that your child won’t know but would be the best people to seek out. For example, rather than going off with a shifty looking character stood alone in a dark alleyway, go to a family with kids and ask them for help. Look for people in uniform – a policeman, a security guard, a shop worker. And for the love of god, DON’T teach your children to be scared of a police officer taking them away. Police are there to help and they are safe to go to. Teach them to wave at police cars that go by. They are actually friendly and will wave back. I’ve even asked them to turn on their siren once when Dexter was little and he loved it!
Look for a safe place to call your meet up point.
A friend of mine work for the St Johns Ambulance and says they “usually have a big flag with a first aid, green cross flying higher than anything else you can see. Teach your kids to find that if they lose you. Take a minute to show them where this is when you arrive” They are easily recognisable and again are safe strangers. To be doubly sure you child will confidently head there, why not make your way over to their tent first and introduce yourself to the staff. At least this way, your child has a friendly face they can head towards if they did become separated from you.
Take a picture of your child before you head out.
This way you will know exactly what they are wearing should the worst happen. This makes it a lot easier when people help you look for them as they’ll know defining points to look out for. If your child has any distinguishing features, try to get these in the pictures too. Birthmarks & scars for example, or if they are missing a tooth recently.
As well as making sure you know what your child looks like that day, it is also a good idea to make sure your child knows what you are wearing too. Make a game of it. ask them to study you for 30 seconds, then close their eyes and ask them questions. ‘What colour hair does mummy have? What is she wearing? Does daddy have glasses? Or a beard? If you are wearing any accessories, can they remember what they are? Do you walk with a limp? Are you pushing a buggy? Carrying a bag?
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Get them to ‘wear’ your phone number.
A great idea I’ve seen is people making phone number bracelets with number beads on but these can become lost. A better idea is to order some tattoo paper from somewhere like Amazon. Print out your phone number several times on one sheet of paper, cut them out into individual tattoos and then make sure your child is wearing the tattoo if you are out for the day. Always keep a few spares in the car or in your bag for unexpected events or crowds. And make sure your child knows to show this number to the safe stranger they find.
Avoid personalised clothing/accessories.
I’m actually a bit hypocritical here because Paisley has a backpack with her name on but we don’t use it for days out. Having a visible name enables people to ‘appear’ to know your child. Anyone could speak to them and say something like, “Oh hello *your child’s name*, your mummy asked me to find you. She’s this way, come with me and we’ll find her” You child wants to find Mummy and the stranger knows his/her name so instantly, your child trusts this stranger and goes.
If your child is ‘grabbed’ by a stranger…
Tell them to make as much noise as they can. Bite, kick scream and make a fuss. Also, teach them to drop something that belongs to them for example, kick off a shoe or if they are carrying a toy or wearing a hat etc, teach them to let it go. As terrifying as this thought is, they are leaving evidence at the scene which may help them be found quicker.
Run for the hills… I mean tills!
If you are in a shop, reach them to head to the tills or the customer service area. Head towards a member of staff. These people will be able to keep your child safe and will try and alert you/find you.
Teach them their address.
In the very least, teach them their postcode and house number. If your child manages to escape from your house or school or wanders away close to home, your postcode can be searched and whoever finds your child will be able to take your child back home.
Got any ID?
If your child is carrying a bag or wallet or has pockets, keep a small ID card in there that has your contact information on it along with your child’s name, age and details of any medical needs. This way, even if your child is too scared to speak, someone can look at this and know how to reach you.
If you have a fair amount of days out or holidays, it may even be worth investing in a tracking accessory that works with your mobile phone, this way you can track their location and find them much quicker.
If they do go missing.
If even after all this preparation, your child still manages to escape your gaze for a moment and does indeed go missing, the most important thing is to try and stay calm. If you have these measures in place, there is a very good chance your child will be back with you in minutes.
Head to your meet up point. If they are not there, alert the staff on hand that you have lost your child and they have been instructed to go to this point. If you introduced yourselves at the start, you are already one step ahead. Give the staff your phone number so that they can call you if/when your child turns up. Show them a picture that you took at the start of the day so they know what your child is wearing
Alert event security so that they can keep their eye out and perhaps help you look. Again, use your picture to show them but also alert them of any medical conditions that might be relevant ie if your child suffers from epilepsy, is autistic or has any sensory issues that might make them scared of certain things or unaware of dangers. Children with communication issues may not be able to respond when called so if this is the case, make sure people are aware
Go back to where they went missing, they may still be there or at least close by.
I hope this never happens to you, but If it does, I hope that your child is found quickly, safe and well.
Is there anything you would add? I’d love to hear if there is something I’ve missed. Don’t forget to share with your friends, this post could really help someone.