It is not uncommon for kids to get lost or separated from their parents or other caregivers.
Although some of these incidents are because of foul play, it is more common for them to be simple, brief separations caused by a kid that runs off from a distracted parent.
That doesn't make them any less scary though, as all kinds of scenarios start running through your head until you get reunited with your missing child.
To help speed your safe reunion with your child, there are some steps you should take.
- Most importantly, keep a close eye on your kids and teach them not to run off.
- If you are with multiple caregivers, have a plan for which adult watches which children. That way you won't make the mistake of thinking that a missing child is just with the other caregiver.
- Check major hazards in and around your house first if your child is missing, including a pool, hot tub, pond, etc., your car and it's trunk, the street, and anywhere else where your child can be hurt if not very quickly found and rescued.
- Review where everyone will meet if you do get separated. This is especially helpful for older kids who may be able to just go to the meeting place if they get lost.
- Teach your child what to do if they do get lost or separated from you. Keep in mind that this plan will likely depend on where you are. At the mall, you might instruct your child to go into a store and tell an employee at a cash register that she is lost, while at Disney World, they might go to one of the dressed up characters for help.
It can also be easier to find your child if they know their full name and your phone number. Although it depends on your child's verbal abilities, many can start to memorize their name and number by age three or four years and definitely by the time they start school.
But which number should your child learn? Would it be better for them to know your home number, your work number, or the number to your mobile phone?
Since your mobile phone is the only one that you can have with you at all times, that is likely the best choice.
Consider a scenario where you get separated from your child at the mall. Your five year old follows the plan, goes into the nearest store and tells an employee at the cash register that he is lost. He gives her his name and your phone number, and the employee calls you to let you know that she has found your child. Since they called your mobile phone, you run to the store and are relieved to find your child safe and sound.
On the other hand, if they had called your home number, it would have delayed your getting the message.
Knowing your cell number can be especially helpful when you are traveling and on vacation.
If you don't have a mobile phone, make sure that you are able to call home and check your messages in case your child is lost and calls home.
If your child has a hard time memorizing important personal information, consider putting them on a laminated card that he can hold in his pocket or that you can pin to his clothing.
In addition to having a plan in case you get separated from your kids and teaching them their name and phone number, you should also carry around a recent picture of your child and record general identifying information, like his height and weight.
Having a picture will save you the time of rushing home to get one in case of an extended separation that requires a real search.
High Tech Solutions
In addition to general safety measures, there are some new high tech ways to get reunited with your child.
The most high tech involves a GPS locator your child wears. One such device, the Wherify Wireless GPS Personal Locator Watch for Children, includes a watch your child wears and which can be tracked with GPS satellites and a nationwide PCS wireless network. If your child is wearing the watch and gets lost, you can quickly locate him through a web site or by calling Wherify's Location Service Center.
While it sounds like an ideal service, in addition to costing almost $200, there are activation and monthly service fees which may make it too expensive for many parents. And some people have complained about poor signal strength (like which affects cell phones) and a poor battery life.
A simpler device, and less expensive device, can alert you if your child wanders away from you. The Miniature Child Guard system 'is a two piece alarm. Attach one unit to a child and the parent keeps the other. It will alert the parent if a child wanders beyond a distance of 30 feet.'
Another device, the Child Guardian, is a 'a wireless transmitter & receiver. The child wears the receiver, which is the alarm unit, in an attractive nylon pouch that is strapped to the child's waist. The parent uses a small remote control trasmitter to locate or alert the child. When a button is pushed on the parent's unit, the child's unit sounds a 105db siren. To alert the parent or others nearby, the child can activate the alarm by simply pulling on a cord. This alarm has a range of 200 feet.'
For more information on these devices, please see: