Though you may not like to even think about the idea of your child or the children in your care being lost or abducted, this terrifying situation is still a possibility. In the year 2017 alone, there were 27,000 cases where the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children worked with police to recover missing children. Though the vast majority of these cases were older children who ran away from home, there’s still a remote chance that a child could get lost or be abducted, either by someone they know or by a stranger. That’s why it’s imperative to teach kids about stranger danger and what to do if they get lost at an early age.
This first article of a two-part series will focus on what information kids need to know and whom they should approach if they ever get lost.
Teach Kids Contact Information
Kids should learn vital contact information as soon as they’re old enough to memorize. Cell phone numbers of both parents are probably the most helpful contact information for children to learn as these phones are usually the ones which parents are most likely to have with them at all times. They should also be able to recite their home address.
If kids can learn a landline number or work number for their parents too, that would be ideal, but sometimes it’s too much for them to remember when they’re very young. It would also be helpful for a child to at least know the name and general location of their parents’ place of employment in case they can’t be reached by cell phone if the child is lost or there’s an emergency when the child isn’t with their parents.
Daycare providers should always have this vital information for a child’s parents on file and carry it with them on field trips. If your preschool or daycare center is going on a field trip, it makes sense to have all the students and school employees wear matching shirts that include your school or center’s name and phone number. You could even place a semi-permanent wristband (that children can’t remove) on each child with their parent’s names and phone numbers on them for added security. Parents can use these wristbands for security on family outings as well.
Teach Kids How To Approach Strangers for Help
Another important skill young children should learn is how to seek out help from a stranger if they get separated from their parents. Distinguishing between safe and unsafe strangers can be tricky, especially for a very young child. Though there’s no clear-cut way to tell for sure who would fall into which of those two categories, there are a few tips you can give to help children figure out whom to approach if they get lost.
Tell the child to look for another young child or group of young children who are walking around with a woman who looks like she may be their mother. A woman who has young kids with her is the most likely person to help a child in this situation. The child should be instructed to approach the woman and say, “I’m lost. Can you help me find my parents?” Have them practice these words over and over again. The child should then tell the woman their parent’s name and phone number and stay with her until help arrives.
Teach Kids Where to Meet You if You Get Separated
Every time you go to a certain store or playground, it’s a good idea to set up a meeting place in case a child gets separated from the group. Make it an easy to identify location such as a large slide you can see from anywhere in the park, or a certain checkout counter at the store. Tell the child that if they’re lost and they get to the meeting place and you’re not there, they should ask an adult nearby, preferably someone in a store uniform or a woman with children, to help them find their parents or caregiver.
Teach Kids What to Do If They’re Lost in Isolated Areas
If a child gets lost somewhere where they aren’t around other people, such as on a walk in the forest, the child should be instructed to stay in one place and loudly yell the name of whichever trusted adult they were with before they got lost, whether it be a parent, preschool teacher, or daycare provider. Tell them not to walk around alone in this unfamiliar place as they could end up getting even more lost than they previously were. If an adult comes by in this situation asking to help, the child should tell the adult that they’re lost and ask them to call their parents.
Interacting with strangers during an emergency situation, such as getting lost, can be extremely scary for a child. Giving them a game plan and role-playing with them in advance will give them the tools they need in case they ever find themselves in this predicament.
Continue reading with Part 2.