This past June I had to travel with my children for the first time. We went to St. Thomas for my sister's destination wedding. It was exciting, but I was very nervous about losing my children, especially in a foreign place. I'm also ashamed to admit that I did lose one of my boys one time when I was shopping in Target. It was for only about a minute, but it was terrifying.
The Target experience and the upcoming wedding led me to come up with a plan to allow my children to help themselves if (and when) they ever get lost again. I decided to get them ID bracelets. I wanted something inexpensive and durable. It also had to be waterproof, since they would be swimming a lot while on vacation. With the current craze of rubber message bracelets, I decided that was the way to go.
I went online and started searching. There was an overwhelming supply of choices. I needed a company that made bracelets in child sizes in small quantities (most sold only in bulk) and at low prices. I eventually found a site that worked. I won't name the site because I'm not 100% happy with them. The child's size is a little too big, but it got the job done. In the future, I'll find a different website.
I chose a bright color with debossed printing. I put their first and last name on one side and my cell phone number on the other side. I also ordered 2 bracelets per child, in case one got lost. Since the bracelets are a little large, they can easily slide off my boys' wrists, so while away on vacation, I had them wear the bracelets on their ankles. The bracelets weren't at all tight, but they didn't slide easily over their feet. When we're just going out to the store, they wear them on their wrist.
The next step is just as important as the bracelets. You MUST teach your child/children how to ask for help. They need to know how to save themselves if they are separated from you. Most children will just stand still and cry or worse, hide somewhere. That's not going to help anybody. That may even make them a target for predators.
I taught my children that if they are ever separated from me, to go to an adult for help. This can be tricky when trying to teach children about "good" or "bad" adults. I tell my children the obvious, go to a police officer, fireman, etc., but they are not always around. When I go to a store, I always show my children who works there. I try to teach them to recognize employees by uniforms, stations (cashier, security) or name tags. *I also tell them if they are not sure who to go to, always find a mom with kids to ask for help.* I think this is the most valuable thing I've learned! Chances are, a mom with children will not be a predator. Upon finding an adult for help, I taught them to say "I can't find my mommy" and show them the bracelet, which they know has their name and my number. I also told them that if they get lost together, they need to hold hands and stay together.
I was very proud when one day my son had to use my teachings one day and he did it perfectly! He wasn't really lost, because I could see him the whole time, but he couldn't see me. I didn't run to his rescue because I wanted to see what he would do. Here's what happened:
We went to a local fair which was near a park. Before we went home, my husband and I let the boys play in the park for a little while, which was crowded from the fair. We parked ourselves in a shady spot while the boys went off to play, always in our view. I always tell my boys where I'm sitting when I take them to the park, but only one heard me this time. The other ran off to play too quickly. After a few minutes, one my sons came looking for me, but didn't know where I was. He stood in the middle of the park, looking around. Within a few seconds of realizing he had no idea where I was, he very calmly turned to a nearby mother and told her "I can't find my mommy". At this point, my husband ran over to get him. I could not have been more proud at that moment! My 4 year old stayed perfectly calm and helped himself! He did exactly as I taught him!
It's funny because when I teach my children, I never know what is actually sticking or if they are even paying attention. It was really nice to know that he actually learned this important lesson. Now I am completely confident that if they ever get lost again that they will know exactly what to do.
Make sure you teach your children this important lesson as early as possible! It could really make all the difference in the world!