February Parenting Tip: Stay Calm

It’s always terrifying when you get separated from your child in a public place, i.e. the zoo, aquarium, theme park, stadium, etc. I like to be prepared and prepare my children whenever we head out to a busy place. At times you may feel over-cautious and even neurotic, but it only takes a second for your child to disappear. Trust me…I know. About 2 years ago, I took my oldest son, who was 3 at the time, and his brother, who was 1 at the time, to the zoo. We were having a great time and in an instant, my 3-year-old had vanished. Long story short, he went down two steps to gain a closer look at the white tiger and I didn’t realize there was a second exit, hidden from my view. When I realized he was gone, he had wandered pretty far away looking for me. I remained as calm and clear-headed as I could and began yelling his name. I knew we were at a kid friendly place where there would be tons of parents around, which was of course extremely helpful in my search. Within minutes, a nice woman approached me and asked if I was looking for my son, as it was clearly obvious from my state of mind. She had seen my son, realized he was lost, and took him with her class until we were able to reconnect. I can’t even think about the “what ifs” but I am just glad and fortunate that this woman had my son’s best interest at heart. I was so thankful and when I saw my son’s curly blonde hair, I gave him the biggest hug and didn’t want to let go. I explained what had just happened and we discussed what changes we would have made to avoid a repeat performance. Luckily, my son was unfazed and not scarred by the incident. I was shaken up a bit but was extremely proud of myself at how I handled the whole situation. After this very important lesson learned, here are steps I now take that will also help keep your child safe…and you sane.

  • Dress your child in something bright and recognizable
    • Bright colors are easy to spot in a crowd
    • Know what your child is wearing, i.e. color of shirt, any logos, etc.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings
    • Is there more than one entrance and exit?
    • Who are the people around you?
    • Keep cell phone usage to a minimum and save your social media and e-mail updates for another time.
  • Know your child’s habits
    • Does your child typically run off and wander away?
    • Is he/she easily distracted?
    • Does he/she prefer to hold your hand?
    • How does he/she react when he/she cannot find you?
      • Does he/she panic, cry, yell or not pay much attention to your absence?
  • You can purchase child identification tattoos
    • Perfect for family outings to crowded places and travel in busy airports.
    • These are great if your child is too young to know specific information about himself/herself.
    • Easy to put on and take off.
  • Keep a picture of your child in your cell phone for easy access if you need to provide one.
  • Have a plan in case you get separated
    • Discuss with your child what he/she should do in case he/she  cannot locate you.
      • Tell your child he/she should remain calm and not panic.
      • Who are they to approach? What are they to say? Should they move from where they are?
        • I always tell my children to find either a mom or uniformed person, i.e. police officer or employee.
        • They should state that they are lost, give their first and last name and ask for help.
        • Try and not move too far from where your child last saw you. Tell them you will find them and for them not to wander and find you.
    • Reiterate this plan every time you head out to a busy venue so it is fresh in their minds.
  • Try not to panic yourself when you realize your child is missing.
    • This will help you think more logically and not waste any time looking for them.
    • Alert someone in charge, i.e. an employee, police officer, etc., that you have lost your child, so multiple people in multiple locations can be on the lookout.
  • When you are reunited with your child, use the opportunity and evaluate what just occurred and why.
    • Deliver the right message depending on the emotional state your child is in.
      • Did your child even realize he/she was missing?
      • Did he/she wander off and not tell you, not realizing the possible consequences?
      • Did he/she get confused and think you had wandered away?
      • Did he/she not follow rules you have set in place, causing the separation?
      • Do not get angry and yell at your child, but instead comfort and love him/her upon reuniting, and then explain how scared you were. Set the tone of your conversation based on your specific situation.
      • While the situation is fresh in your child’s mind, do not wait very long to go over future plans to avoid a repeat fiasco.

You can never be too careful and as I learned, it only takes a second for your child to disappear. I’d love to hear what steps and precautions you take to ensure a great time out with your family!

Thanks for reading and remember, TOGETHER WE CAN MASTER MOTHERHOOD! ™