It’s hard to let yourself imagine the gut wrenching feeling you’d experience if you turned around in a crowded store, then turned back and saw your child was gone. Your face would get hot, you’d begin breathing rapidly, and panic would quickly set in. This is a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Our children are so precious, the thought of one of them being lost, missing, or having wandered off is unbearable.
Kids can go missing from almost anywhere and it can happen in a matter of seconds. Crowded public places, a playground or park, or even your own front yard are all common places from which children are reported missing. According to the US Bureau of National Crime Information Center, a child becomes missing or abducted every 40 seconds. Let that sink in. Every 40 seconds.
I can’t imagine having come up with a plan for this type of situation or any amount of preparation would ease the panic you’d feel if your child were missing. There are some steps you can take that will help to ensure the best possible outcome for your child.
Here are 4 simple tips to follow to increase your chances of locating a missing child:
Speak openly with your children about dangers.
Communicate regularly, and in an age appropriate manner, with your children about the dangers of wandering off, getting lost, or being abducted.
Be sure they know what you would and wouldn’t ask them to do. For instance, run through hypothetical situations with them. Go over what you want them to do if someone offered them a ride, asked them for directions or help around their car, or made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Make sure they know who safe people are and where to find them. In stores, this might be security guards or store employees. Outside it could be police, firefighters, or park rangers.
Encouraging them to memorize their address and your cell phone number at an early age. You can begin to prepare your child for a worse case scenario in a non-intimidating way by making it like a game.
Always keep a current image of your child on you.
If your child goes missing, it is incredibly important to have an up-to-date image of them. You can share this image with security and/or authorities right away. This simple tip has become so much easier now that we all keep a phone with a camera on us basically 24/7. If you’re like me, you’ve got new photos of your kids on your phone just about every day.
Whenever there is a significant change to your child’s appearance, like a hair cut, be sure to snap a photo of them with a clear view of their face. Also make sure your images are being backed up somewhere so that you can access the images even if you don’t have your phone on you at the time.
Know what your child is wearing.
As best as you can, each day, make a mental note of what your child is wearing. Particularly take note of any distinguishing features like a character, colors, or design on the clothing. Try to remember brand names and sizes, if possible.
Also be aware of the things your child carries on them at all times. If they are younger, this might be a favorite toy. As they get older, this might be a piece of jewelry, a wallet, or cell phone.
Have a comprehensive record containing your child’s DNA and fingerprints.
Collect all of your child’s important information and samples and keep them together in a safe place. You’ll want to include things like their full name, medical and dental records, identifying marks like scars and birthmarks, and finally their school information. Have a list of your child’s closest friends and numbers where you can contact them.
Additionally it’s important to have DNA samples and fingerprints for each of your children. If you want to gather all of this information and have it in one safe space, consider putting together a child identification record for each of your children.
A child can go missing in the blink of an eye. If that happens, I know you want to be as calm and as prepared as possible. That way you can locate and reunite with your missing child.