Co-op News, March 1999
Raising an Explorer
by Bill Driskell, Lost Parent, Meadowbrook 5s
Following today's preschool field trip, my son was voted most likely to get separated from the group (albeit with a few close contenders). Yes, it's every parent's nightmare: You turn away for a second in a crowded ____ (fill in the blank: mall, check-out line, bookstore, aircraft toilet), and suddenly your child is nowhere in sight. I usually experience four emotions when this occurs: 1) a large dose of panic and 2) empathy that he may actually be lost, followed by 3) a rush of anger that heís ignored an often-stressed family safety rule and then for a fleeting nanosecond, 4) a twinge of pride knowing that heís becoming independent enough to make this separation (presuming heís willfully wandered away versus having dysfunctional spatial skills like one of his parents).
And while I've often cursed the unknown inventor of circular display racks in clothing stores, Seattle Police advise that the most dangerous places for children to be kidnapped are in chaotic, child-filled situations like large toy stores or public parks. In these venues, a squealing child may often be ignored. Almost every parent knows the cardinal rule: mutual sightóyou have to be able to see them and they have to see you at all times. Thereís also ìdonít talk to strangersî and ìtrust your feelingsî but that may be a bit complex for the little ones.
But just in case your child is Houdini-incarnate, make sure he knows what to do when you become separated. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) recommends the following before you head out to a crowded place.
Ages 3 to 4
Tell your child that if he doesnít see you he should sit right down on the ground and that youíll come get him. Stress that he should never leave the area to go look for you, but he can call out ìMommyî or ìDaddy,î which will let people know he's lost.
Ages 5 to 6
She should stay in one spot and keep an eye out for a ìsafe adultî ó best, a clerk in a uniform or behind a checkout counter; or a security guard or police officer; or a family with kids. Your child should tell this adult that sheís lost and give her full name.
Ages 7 and Up
He should memorize the phone number of a close friend or relative or 911 so that he can call a safe adult; to ask her for help. What Parents Should Do (other than kid-sized ball-and-chain)
K n o w e x a c t l y w h a t y o u r c h i l d i s w e a r i n g b e f o r e y o u l e a v e t h e h o u s e .