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If you’re a parent, one of your biggest fears is probably losing your child in a public place — the mere thought of it is enough to induce panic and nausea. But if the unthinkable happens, there are things you can do to help get your kid back safe and sound, and it helps to have an action plan in place before a crisis arises.
According to TikTok user Jess Martini, it’s crucial to “start looking loudly for them,” first and foremost.
“Do not start silently looking for them. You want to look loudly,” she said in a recent video on the social media platform.
What To Start Shouting If Your Child Goes Missing
And instead of looking around and yelling your child’s name — which is what most of us would instinctively do — a better approach might be to shout about your child.
“You start shouting their description while you look,” said Martini. “It’s going to sound like this: ‘I’m looking for a boy, age 5, short brown hair, brown eyes, Caucasian, red Nike T-shirt, black shorts!’ You’re going to keep repeating yourself while you look over and over again.”
Watch Martini’s full video below:
This works, says the mom of three, because you’ll immediately enlist a number of people to look for your child, instead of just you. She also points out that if “someone was walking away with your child, they are more likely to let them go because they don’t want that sort of commotion.”
Martini added something really important for parents to remember: These things can happen to everybody, “even the best parents.” Kids can slip away in crowds, no matter how vigilant you are.
“You may feel you look stupid doing it, and maybe you do, but it is so much better to look stupid than to be sorry,” Martini said.
Next, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) for more help and advice.
Take Precautions Before Even Leaving The House
Holtzman also recommends making sure your kids know certain information before you go out to a busy place, like their first and last name, complete address (including city and state) and your cell number (including area code).
“For younger children, start with simpler information: the first digits of your address, street name and color of your home,” she says.
When you’re out and about, constant supervision is essential, Holtzman adds. Don’t let kids play with hand-held toys while they’re walking with you, so they don’t get distracted. Younger kids are safest in a stroller, or holding your hand at all times. For older kids, a central meeting place can be agreed upon at the start of the day, such as an information desk in the mall.
“Teach young children not to run, walk or hide from you,” she says. “If they were to get away from you, educate them on staying put until you can find them. Also, teach them that they can ask a mom with a child who is nearby for help.”
Another simple thing you can do in advance to reduce the risk of your child going missing is to dress them in brightly colored clothes — this makes it easier for you to spot them in a crowd. You could also consider having your child wear a wrist band with your cell phone number on it.
And before you leave home, snap a high-quality digital photo of your child, just in case you need to ask others for help.