There will always be some risk that your child will become separated from you in public. There are, however, things you can do to help prevent them from getting lost, as well as things you can do to help ensure they are found quickly and safely if they do.
Help reduce your child’s risk of getting lost
- Supervise young children closely. In busy places with lots of people, hold their hand or use a stroller/carrier for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Talk to your child about always sticking with a buddy. For younger children, a buddy is someone old enough to look after them (e.g., parent, older sister, older brother, grandparent, aunt, uncle, babysitter).
- Teach your child to always ask you before going anywhere and to give you information about where they are going, who else will be there, and when they will be returning.
- Talk to your child about always sticking with a buddy. For older children, a buddy can be a friend. This is especially important if your child is old enough to go to public places without you, including walking to and from school.
Children of all ages
- Before going out as a family, explain to your child the expectations you have of them and the family rules for keeping safe.
- Talk to your child about staying close by you/the adult they are out with. Ensure your child knows who the adult(s) in charge are if they’re going somewhere without you (e.g., school outing, summer camp, sports team).
- If your child will be on an outing with a group of kids, make sure there are enough adults to reasonably supervise. Keep in mind that groups of adults may start talking to each other and lose track of where the kids are and what they are doing. Consider designating one or a few adults to watch the kids and then rotate so everyone has a chance to visit.
Have a plan
- Tell your child that if they become lost, they should sit down and stay exactly where they are, call out loudly for mom or dad (or the adult they are with), and you will come and find them. Teach them that if anyone other than the adult they are with tries to take them away from that spot, they need to refuse to leave.
- Another option that may be appropriate is to teach them to ask a person with children for help. Children know how to identify a mom in a crowd, whereas authority figures may be more difficult for them. Mothers with children are more likely to help and less likely to pose a threat.
- Set a place to meet if you and your child become separated. This place must be clearly visible. Emphasize to your child that they need to stay at the agreed-upon place if the two of you become separated — no matter what.
Children of all ages
- When attending busy places with lots of people, plan ahead and make sure your child is wearing bright, distinctive clothing so they can be spotted more easily if they become separated from you.
- Have a recent and clear (i.e., no filters) photo of your child. If you are attending a busy event, take a photo of your child in the clothes they are wearing that day.
- Teach your child to shout out for you if they get lost. You, too, should shout out your child’s name if they become separated from you.
- If you are in an isolated area (e.g., hiking trail, campground, park), it is especially important for your child to stay where they are and call out loudly for you until you find them.
- Some large public events have special programs to help children if they get separated from their parents — seek these programs out and use their services.
- Write your cell phone number on a label or a sticker and place it on your child before entering a public event or area. Do not write your child’s name anywhere that is visible to the public; if a child is called by name, they are more likely to respond to or follow a person who is otherwise unknown to them.
The information provided above is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should assess all information in light of their own circumstances, the age and maturity level of the child they wish to protect, and any other relevant factors.