No parent wants to think of their children getting lost, but if the worst scenario does occur and they become separated from you when you’re out somewhere, it’s important that a child knows what to do. Here are some practical tips and advice on helping your child learn what to do if they get lost.
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As a parent, there are all sorts of safety messages that it’s useful to pass on to children, both for their well-being and for your peace of mind, should an unexpected or potentially dangerous situation arise. Teaching children what to do equips them with the knowledge and know-how regarding how to act, and helps reduce the risk of blind panic.
Of course, when some circumstances arise, it’s only natural to panic – both for parents and children. But in the midst of the panic and fear, it’s beneficial if some of the safety messages are remembered.
When Can Children Be Taught Safety Lessons?
Children from as young as three years old are capable of learning simple safety rules. At this age they learn particularly well from stories and play, so you could find books that focus on what to do if children get lost and act out the scenarios with your child and their toys.
Safety scenarios are useful for older children, too. Through imaginary play and ‘what if?’ games, you could teach them about how to stay safe if they get lost and reinforce their understanding of what to do and who they should, and shouldn’t, approach for help.
What Should a Child Do if They Get Lost?
When you’re helping your child learn about what to do if they get lost, it’s best to stick to clear and concise details, as this will hopefully help them remember it more easily if a lost situation occurs. Focus on the three Ws – What to do, Where to go, and Who to speak to.
- Identify a safe place or meeting point where your child could go if they get lost or separated. For example, in a shop, this could be the checkout or customer service desk at the front; at a beach it could be the lifeguard hut; or at an adventure park it may be the central information point.
- Help a child learn important information, such as their name, address, your name and phone number, so that they can give the details to an authoritative person if they become lost.
- Talk about the types of people they could approach for help if they get lost. For example, members of staff, lifeguards, policemen or shop assistants.
When you’re out and about and visiting different places, you could make it a regular topic to talk about where a safe place would be if your child gets lost. This helps children identify good places and reinforces the details of where they should go if they get separated from you. If your Child Does Become Lost, and you can not find them, you should notify the police.
Should Children Speak to Strangers?
Although you may well be discussing stranger danger with your child too, it can be confusing to be told to never speak to strangers, as if they’re lost they may well need to speak to someone in order to get help. Thinking they’re all alone and can’t speak to anyone increases the fear. So rather than emphasising the dangers of talking to strangers in this situation, try to focus on who it’s fine to speak to.
For example, a uniformed policeman, a member of staff or someone working behind the desk in a shop, leisure centre or theme park. Or, if there’s no one matching those descriptions available, suggest they approach another mum with a young child, rather than an unaccompanied adult.
You may like to explore ways of ensuring that children have essential information on them, such as their address, your phone number, your name or your car registration number, but in way that is safe from accidental loss or theft.
There are some safety ID cards that you can have made to attach to children’s bags or clothes that may worth trying, or you could make your own version.
There are also small capsule-like containers that can be worn around the neck, like a necklace, with your contact details enclosed inside. Many of these are also waterproof, so are a good option for a day out on the beach.