Did you catch my story about losing a kid? And, if you didn’t… I’ll recap it for you here. I had lots of messages from mommies asking me to detail how to train your kids for crisis situations, so here you go…I’ll start with “Lost kid training”.
If “losing a kid” could be successful, ours was. I can’t take credit because, life is crazy and so much just can’t be controlled. My heart breaks for victims who didn’t have a happy ending. All is grace.
TRAIN YOUR KIDS
I went to college for theater, but I left that all behind when I became a mom. I forgot though how much of those skills transferred so well!
Case in point: memorization. How many scripts have I memorized in my lifetime? A bazillion. I transferred those skills to helping me parent.
- Memorize phone numbers. Have your kids memorize your phone number. Even if they “have a phone”, phones get stolen and lost. There’s no substitute for legit memorization.
- Rehearse and roll play scenarios. Yep. Driving to Disney Springs that morning I told my kids, “Stick close. There are lots of people. If you look around and notice you don’t see me, you might be lost.” Most families have a “lost kid” story. It happens often, so…it’s worth talking about and practicing. What would you do? I tell the kids what to do and they memorize it like a script. You never know when x,y,z might happen. You want it in their memory and to feel like second nature.
- Unemotional preparations. We get off of the elevator, heading into Disney Springs and I have the kids stop and answer: “What is Mommy’s phone number?” They chant it back in unison. “What do you do if you get lost?” They chant it back in unison. “What are the rules?” They chant it back in unison. (Great for ages 5-10. I’ll address younger ages in a minute.)
This a completely unemotional preparation, not a real crisis, rather a practice run in case. For the “real show” there will be emotions to manage, but in advance this rehearsal has no emotion.
Talk about: what does it feel like to be lost?
It feels like, you have looked in every direction and can’t find your parents. You have stayed put for 2-3 minutes to see if they find you. But you don’t see them.
After this moment, take action.
My theory is that lost kids wandering around aimlessly can tend to be more sceseptible to dangerous situations. Not always, this isn’t a generalization, just how I processed it.
I told my kids to walk straight into a store to the cash register and ask for a Manager.
*An employee is always working a register. It’s hard for kids to know what an employee or worker might look like.
*Because registers have money, they are monitored well and often with security cameras. Important for safety.
*Say to the Manager, “May I please use your telephone to call my parents?”
*Call us and tell us your location. Stay put until we arrive.
*Just my opinion, no reason for the child to announce he or she is lost. You can borrow a telephone and solve the problem by informing us of your location.
( I much prefer being notified immediately by my child by phone rather than checking a lost child room or location at the park.)
IN OUR SITUATION
We got caught in a torrential downpour. We had to make a mad dash to shelter. In the dash, she said she became concerned with getting wet and was looking down, walking too slow and looked up to realize she was lost.
She called our names and looked around. She didn’t have a response.
She was right next to the store “World of Disney”. She went straight in and made her way to the register. She asked “May I please use a phone?”
We realized a child with the same shirt was near us that we thought was her, and it wasn’t. We realized she wasn’t with us. (Luckily, Sophia is our 9 year old so I felt more confident.)
Immediately, I pulled out my phone and thought, “She’s going to call”. I was confident in our script. And, within 2 minutes I had a phone call from “World of Disney” store.
From the store phone, “Hi Mommy. It’s Sophia, I’m at the center cash register at World of Disney.” “Hi Sophia, we are just around the corner, Daddy will be right there. Stay on the phone with me.”
We were literally just around the corner. Scott swooped in, went straight to her location. Picked her up and they joined us around the corner at the elevator. We were separated for 4 minutes.
When she came running toward me in the pouring rain with Daddy trailing behind, she says, “Mommy! Our plan worked!”
Of course, the tears were just welling up for me. The tears, mixed with rain, soaked us.
“You executed the plan perfectly. I’m so proud of you! Were you scared?”
“No, Mommy. I wasn’t scared at all because I knew exactly what to do.”
Plans don’t always work. Truly. But, if they do…wow, you are more grateful. Stick to the plan. I love that she doesn’t say, “I got lost.” She says, “I had to make a phone call.” It’s a different psychological feeling.
If it didn’t work, evaluate what to do differently next time. Without guilt or shame, try another solution.
FOR YOUNG KIDS
If you have toddlers who can’t memorize a plan or a phone number, try some of these ideas:
- Use color stay lipstick to write your phone number on their hand.
- Use a temporary tattoo with a “if lost, please call_______”.
- Wear a necklace or bracelet with your phone number on it.
Some other suggestions:
- Practice with a smaller outing to a crowded public place and see how it worked for your family. Try the zoo or mall before tackling Magic Kingdom. This has helped me tremendously!
- Bring extra adults so each toddler has an adult helper. 1:1 ratio. (Especially helpful for this mom of 4, I always feel outnumbered.)
- Pair older kids with younger kids. Create a buddy system.
- Talk to teachers. They do a great job keeping track of kids and I love their ideas.
Thanks for reading my lost kid story. Phew! We all slept well that night. These kinds of days are great for memories but a little tiring for the mamas that make it happen. Here’s to successful big family outings!
The information provided here is strictly opinion based. Any advice should be replicated at your own risk.