How to Teach Your Non Verbal Child What to Do if Lost
Important Safety Tips You Must Teach Your Child if Lost
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare and can happen so quickly. You are in a public place and your little one is right next to you, but you look away for one second, and he is gone.
Why teach young kids what to do if they get lost?
Because it can happen to the best of us.
I arrogantly used to think that good parents like myself don’t lose track of their children. My two older boys (10 years apart in age) had never gotten lost or separated from me on an outing.
But then the twins came along.
And humbled me to my core!
The twins have always found great pleasure in going in opposite directions and wreaking havoc at home. So taking them out by myself when they were smaller required keeping them contained in the double stroller. They didn’t like being confined, but it was necessary to prevent one from getting lost or separated from me.
But one day, I foolishly attempted to take them both into the store without the stroller.
I only needed one thing, how hard could it be?
One toddler on each side of me holding my hand. Easy enough. Until I had to release a kid’s hand so I could pay.
One twin took off and when I let go of the other to catch the run-away, he thought it was all really funny, so he darted off too!
I somehow grabbed them both, restrained one kid between my knees and the other with one hand while I clumsily used my free hand to finish paying.
To make my life easier, I shop for EVERYTHING possible online and use grocery store pickup services and pharmacy drive throughs. I go to great lengths to NOT take the twins out by myself!
While it seems the simple solution is to minimize our outings, the reality is that I needed to start teaching the twins what to do if they became separated from me or got lost.
And obviously I needed to teach the little turkeys to obey and not run from mommy….but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!
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What if your child is non verbal?
Although he lacks the motor planning to speak with his voice, he communicates with us quite well with some sign language, some word approximations, and gestures, but a stranger wouldn’t be able to understand.
Beckem also does well with his AAC device, but he’s still too young to be expected to keep up with it.
Before we went to Disney, I brainstormed and researched for months for ways to keep track of the twins in case one got separated from us. At 5 years of age, I knew that Adler would be able to articulate to a grown up the information needed to reconnect with us, but there was no way Beckem would be able to.
I looked at those kid gps gadgets but that just didn’t seem practical for us. There are also temporary tattoos you can personalize with your info, but Beckem’s skin is so sensitive that I wasn’t sure if that would work.
The identification bracelets seem to be a nifty solution, but Beckem refused to leave his bracelet on when we went to the water park last summer, so I knew that wouldn’t be an effective option.
After all of that searching, I finally thought of the perfect solution and it cost less than $5!
A pet ID tag!
I decided I would attach the tag to Beckem’s shoe. I ordered several of the yellow star tags so I could place one on different shoes he might wear and also put one on his backpack that he carried in the airport. I also put tags on Adler’s shoes since he hasn’t memorized our phone numbers yet. However, even if he had learned our number, if Adler were separated from us, he would likely be so upset that he wouldn’t be able to recall it.
The tag has a little key ring and I simply attached that to the shoe string of his tennis shoe. For his Crocs, I used a piece of yarn and tied it through the holes in the shoe.
To secure the ID tag to his boots, I use one of these.
So that’s it…put a dog tag on my kid?
I wish it were that easy! But, you will also need to teach and prepare your kids for what they should do if they get lost.
What parents can do
There are several things parents need to do to prepare for the possibility of this situation.
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First, you want to talk to your children about the importance of NOT wandering off from you, and what they should do if it does happen.
Don’t make it a scary conversation and reassure them that they WILL be reunited with you.
What to Teach
Now, you want to explain to your kids that if they become lost, you will be looking for them and teach them to stay put. If they are also frantically running around or standing in a corner crying, it will take longer for you to find them.
Have them practice what standing tall and still looks like.
Say my name
Teach your child that he should stay put and shout for mom or dad as loudly as possible over and over.
Beckem does say “mama” and “da-da”, but his voice is very quiet. We practice at home periodically how to say “mama!!” loudly, and he thinks it’s great fun!
You also should teach your kids their own first and last name asap and mom and dad’s first and last name as soon as they are old enough so you won’t be paged over the intercom as “mommy”.
(I taught Beckem to spell and type his name as soon as he was able since he’s unable to verbalize it.)
It’s also a good idea to have kids memorize your phone number, although, I’m not going to rely on their ability to recall it if they are lost and terrified.
If yelling doesn’t work…
I’ve taught my kids to look for a mommy.
Chances are, a mom has already intervened though, since every mom within earshot instinctively reacts when hearing a small child yelling “MOMMY!!!!!!”
I’ve instructed Adler to find a mommy and speak big and clearly saying:
“My name is Adler and I’m lost. Can you help me call my mommy? Here is her phone number on my shoe.”
We’ve taught Beckem to find a mommy and say:
“Mama!” and point to his tag on his shoe.
Some other things parents should do
Make sure you have a current photo of your child just in case. During our week at Disney, I took a photo of the boys with my cell phone each morning at the park entrance, in the event that I needed to know what they were wearing. I like to think I would remember what I dressed the kids in, but I know that if one of my boys wandered off, I would be so shaken that it would probably be a struggle to remember my own name!
Practice and review
Periodic reminders and practice can help our kids remember what to do if they become separated when in a public place. Being prepared can minimize a potentially scary situation and reunite parent and child quickly.
What safety tips would you add? Leave a comment below!
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