How to Teach Your Kids What to Do If They Get Lost

Back of boy's head in in empty room

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Would your child know what to do if they were separated from you in a crowded public place like a park or a mall? It’s one of the most heart-poundingly scary scenarios for parents, but one that every parent must prepare their child for.

Tips for Teaching Your Kid What to Do If They Get Lost

Let's explore six lessons you can teach your kids that can keep them safe if they get lost.

Make sure your child memorizes your full name, your phone number, and your address. Some children as young as 3 may be able to remember a parent’s cell phone number. Also, make sure your child knows your first and last names. Keep in mind, however, that some young children might forget your first names since they don’t use them to refer to their parents.

If your child is too young to memorize your information, write it down on a piece of paper and tuck it away in a secure place like a shoe or pocket. Remind your child where the paper is before heading to your destination so they can tell a safe adult that it’s there in case you are separated.

Have your child practice calling your phone. This is particularly useful with older children once they learn to use a phone. You can have them call your cell phone from a landline or another phone.

Teach your child how to ask for help safely. Rather than teach your child not to ever talk to strangers, empower your child and tell them to ask a mom with a child for help. If they can’t spot one, tell them to look for a woman, a store salesperson with a nametag, or a security guard.

Teach them to tell that adult that they are lost and to give their full name, your phone number, your name, and other basic information.

Tell your child to never go looking for you if they get lost. The best thing for them to do is to stay right where they are so that you can come and find them.

Make learning these tips fun. A good way to do that is to watch a safety video like "The Safe Side—Stranger Safety: Hot Tips to Keep Cool Kids Safe With People They Don't Know and Kinda Know," created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

It delivers important safety information, such as what to do when you are separated from your parent, in a fun and easy-to-understand way that’s perfect for children. Watch it as a family every once in a while to refresh their memory.

The NCMEC also operates a website called Kid Smartz. It is filled with valuable information for parents, more videos for kids, and activities that can continue your safety lessons.

Practice the “what ifs” with your child. Go over these tips periodically, especially before heading out to a crowded location such as a park, playground, or another public area.

Keep in mind that you should never put your child in danger when practicing. Simple questions and answers will do.

The NCMEC recommends going over various types of scenarios such as:

  • “What would you do if you couldn’t see me?”
  • “What would you do if you don’t see a mom with a child right away after you realize we had been separated?”
  • “What would you do if a stranger said you should go with them to find me?”

When you are out and about, practice these tips with your child by asking which of the adults around you they would approach if they were lost.

A Word From Verywell

Simple lessons and periodic reminders can keep your children safe when in public. Review these safety tips as often as you think your child needs to ensure they know what to do if you get separated. Remember to keep things fun, though. It's a serious subject, but kids tend to retain information if they enjoy learning it.

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