Have you ever lost your child?
I have and it’s absolutely terrifying. Don’t turn me into social services for admitting this online. In fact, I think if we are being totally honest, most parents will confess a time or two when they lost their child. It’s honestly one of the absolute worst gut-wrenching, sinking feelings. There is that quick-rising panic attack and your mind imagines all the worst-case scenarios which include a mix of what you have seen on the news recently involving children abductions and what you have seen on horror movies. If you’re an extra-talented worrier like myself, you can race through about a hundred different possibilities in your head faster than your eyes can scan the playground.
I know I’m not the only worried parent out there because of the sheer invention of child tracking devices. I have mixed feelings about those and honestly would prefer a really long leash or flashing neon light about their head so I can always keep them in view. It only gets harder when you have more than one child (this really makes the leash or flashing light idea impractical).
What are some realistic ideas that you use to keep an eye on your children in a crowd?
This is my very favorite one. I am lucky enough to have two children close in age so I can send them short distances on their own more confidently if they are together. Just the other day I was at the grocery store when my seven year old had to go to the bathroom. She is absolutely competent enough to go on her own but I felt much better sending her brother to wait outside the door with her. They are more than ready to tell me what the other person did wrong while I was out of sight so I feel like I know exactly what happened.
Before my kids take off to play I always make sure they know where I am. I have learned that it is just as important for them to be able to look over and find you in a big crowd as it is for us to find them. My fearless little boy has worked himself into a fit of worry more than once when he thought he was left at the park before simply because he couldn’t see us. Before you change your location, be sure to let them know where you will be so they feel safe and secure. If they get worried about where you are than they can often get lost just trying to find you! Similarly, they need to check in with me before they leave the location.
No matter where you are going, make sure the rules are very clear about what is and isn’t allowed in that location and even that day. Even though it may be a place that you have been multiple times, it is helpful to clarify the rules each time. For me, the more people that are around, the closer they have to stay to me. For example, if a small store is empty than they are free to roam as they please but if it is packed than they have to stay close to me or stay with each other at all times. If you are outside- set parameters for where they can go without you. Our yard has limits to keep them out of the street and within view from our large windows. One tip that I have found extremely helpful when setting expectations is to have the conversation in the car before they get out. This way I can keep their attention while we are sitting together in the car anyways and they aren’t distracted. We make a clear plan together so that everyone knows their part.
My sister- in- law has three girls and an amazing sense of style. She always dresses them in matching outfits. This does more than make her pictures absolutely adorable. It also makes them a lot easier to keep within view and spot on a dime. I love this idea but don’t want to completely redo their wardrobes. We recently got matching jackets for adventures in the crowd. They are light and versatile so they can pack well and work for a variety of occasions. We got a matching bright color for all of us so that we can easily spot each other in a crowd. We got this Charles River raincoat. I love that it comes in several different bright colors and that there are styles for the whole family. It is light and breathable and can pack down into my bag so we aren’t carrying around extra bulk.
Teach Them What to do if They Get Lost
Although we want to do what we can so this doesn’t happen, sometimes making a plan to know what to do in that scenario can calm fears and help us act rationally. Teach your kids what to do in case they can’t find you. Teach them how to identify a police officer, an adult in charge or a mother with other children to ask for help. Depending upon their age you can write your name and phone number on their tag, a bracelet or help them memorize it. At a young age it can be simple and very helpful to at least teach your children your first names instead of just “mom” and “dad”. Teach them never to leave with anyone besides you and only someone else if that was the plan you worked out together. I have friends that use a safe word if someone new is going to pick up their kids that wasn’t in the plan earlier so the kids understand that their parents have arranged it and it is safe to go. As soon as you can without causing nightmares, explain the possible dangers to your kids so they understand the importance of following the plan/rules and staying within boundaries.