Getting separated from mom and dad can be scary for children of any age. Thankfully, you’ve taught them to find help in an emergency-but how do your children know who’s help and who’s not? Before you head out into a crowd with your child, and from a young age, here’s what you should teach your child about finding help when they’re lost or separated from their parents.
Be cautious when using the term “stranger danger.”
We do want our children to be wary of individuals they don’t know. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children notes, though, that parents should be careful about confusing children with the concept of “stranger.” In this instance, if they become lost or separated from their caretaker in a crowd, they won’t know what to do if they are scared of speaking to a stranger. If your child is lost, they may need to enlist the help of a stranger, and you need to help them learn where to turn.
Teach children how to identify emergency personnel.
While it’s easy to tell children to find a policeman, does your child know what a policeman looks like? Pictures found in books don’t often represent what police and police cars look like today, or in your area. From a young age, work with children to identify emergency personnel when you see them. Point out badges and attire you see your local law enforcement officials wearing, and have children point out police cars when driving. Teach children to wave at police and say hi-you want them to view police and law enforcement as there to help, not someone to be afraid of.
Help children learn where to (and where not to) go for help.
I’ve often heard parents tell children to stay put if they get lost. If they are running ahead, or don’t realize they are lost, it might not be the best strategy. In places you frequent regularly, you may be able to designate a meeting spot should you and your child get separated. Point out Help Desks and store counters to children when you are out and about, as they may need to locate these should you become separated from one another.
Teach children to identify other families.
One idea that was suggested to my husband and I was to teach children that if they don’t see a policeman, they could approach another family and tell them they are lost. Rather than encourage your child to find just any adult, suggest that they look for a family with other children and a mommy (or daddy). The hope is that another family or parent would then help your child get the help they need in order to locate their parents.
Teaching your children to identify help in a crowd and who to approach should they get lost is a necessary lesson to keep your children safe.
Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Know the Rules…General Tips for Parents and Guardians to Help Keep their Children Safer; http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=3591