Summer is right around the corner, which means we’ll soon all be spending as much time outside as possible!  Recently, my family and I spent the afternoon at Brookfield Zoo.  As we were leaving, we passed someone entering the zoo with her toddler.  The toddler was wearing a harness with a leash attachment, and all I could think was:

I totally get it. 

The phrase “as we were leaving” does not justly describe our exit.  To put it delicately, our toddler vehemently disagreed with our decision to head home.  Like every other parent at the zoo, including the mom we passed earlier, my main goal that day was to have fun, while keeping my kids safe and sound.  My toddler can best be described as “fearless”, and she also believes that running is far superior to walking.  On one hand, these traits allow us to have some incredible, fun-filled adventures.  On the other hand, it does mean that we need to keep a very close watch over her, because she’ll think nothing of darting off at a moment’s notice.

Getting separated from your child is one of every parent’s worst nightmares.  Susie with Busy Toddler wrote a post sharing her experience losing her son (then age 5) at Disneyland.  In this post, she shares exactly what to do if you and your child get separated, and also what to teach your child in case they ever get lost.


What to do if your child gets lost:

Get LOUD.  Shout out their name and a description of them.  Usually, our gut reaction is to shout the child’s name repeatedly while frantically running around searching for them.  I want you to fight the urge to do just that, and instead shout their name and their description.  For example:

“Samantha!! 4 years old, brown hair, purple dress!  Samantha!! 4 years old, brown hair, purple dress!!  I’m looking for my daughter Samantha! 4 years old, brown hair, purple dress!

When you do this, you will have every person in the vicinity also looking for your child.  When a child gets lost, we want every person in the area to be on the lookout, and we want them to know who to look for.  The more people we have looking, the faster we’ll find them.

At the end of the day, all of us want to keep our children safe.  Below are some additional ideas to keep in mind.  

Consider an ID bracelet.  With respect to my toddler’s fearlessness and need for speed, I purchased an ID bracelet for her, and am so glad I did!  Ironically, our first outing wearing her new accessory was our zoo outing.  We have all the vital information on it, including her name, our contact information, and pertinent medical information.  She actually kept it on the entire time, which definitely surprised us!

Take a photo of your child before leaving the house.  This will both help you to remember exactly what they were wearing, so you can shout an accurate description of their outfit, and it will help to have a recent photo if you need to share it with others who are looking for your child.

Write your phone number on their arm or leg.  This serves the same purpose as the ID bracelet, but cannot be easily removed by your child.  This is a great option for children who are uncomfortable with the sensation of a wrist or ankle ID bracelet.

Consider a child safety harness + leash.  I know I’m entering some controversial territory with this one, but please know this is absolutely the right decision for many families.  You may have a child who prefers to walk independently vs. riding in a stroller, but for one of many valid reasons, you feel safest with them wearing a safety harness.



Please note that this content is for informational purposes, and not a substitute for treatment.  If you are in need of mental health treatment, please seek out a provider in your area.  For those located near Chicago, you may book online through our Schedule an Appointment page.

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