What to do when children get lost on a holiday?
Holidays are fun, excitement and joy for everyone. We plan for everything and start off dreaming of all the good things that a vacation would offer. But in a moment's time, our joy can be turned into anguish and sorrow when we face problems. If kids are lost during this holidays, this is the worst thing. This article highlights how to prevent and how to manage such crisis.
IntroductionHolidays are those special times when family forget their stress of daily life and look forward to enjoying the time at popular places, resorts or centers of attractions. Children love a trip to Disneyland, a zoo or a popular shopping district. We prepare in advance, pack everything we need. Most of us have gone on a summer vacation often for the sake of our children. Not all holidays go smoothly, sometimes our worst nightmares come true. Once such nightmare of any parents is misplacing or losing their child in a crowded and foreign place.
What to do to prevent such happenings?
- Planning : Plan the day well, avoid cramming too much on one day to see or places to visit as we tend to be in a hurry and forget simple things when we are in a rush.
- Awareness of the new place: Know the layout of the place well, the general arrangement, where security, may I help desks or staff are visible and available
- Educate children :Tell the children well in advance about where you are taking them, what are the places that you are going to see. Where to get help if needed. If the place has a well-known landmark, ( a dolphin statue, a KFC, a security kiosk, a unique signpost) tell them clearly and without scaring them that, if ever we get separated come to this point and ask for mother or father
- Attire : Choose bright articles of clothing and unique caps or headgear for children, especially when you are on a holiday to a zoo or a Disney land theme park. Imagine looking for your child among a sea of children
- SOS Information: On their person, a pocket or a knapsack, write your names, phone numbers, hotel details clearly in bold prints and keep it. Tell the child where the information is
- Identity tag : Now we get a lot or armbands like ID tags, buy a few of them, write in bold, permanent ink your details and let the children wear as a bracelet. We all would have attended conferences where we are made to wear our ID cards around our necks, we can use the same with the contact details and names for the children if, in a hurry, we can make them wear their own school ID cards
- Handy mobiles : We all have good mobile phones, keep pictures of the kids, yourself, the hotel that you stay, passport or contact details as images and give the child one inexpensive phone in the knapsack. Tell the child, if he/she is lost, then to seek the help of the adults around by dialing your numbers
- Reassure children : Children, based on their age, would get scared when they are separated from the family. Educate them, highlight the problems and how it can happen and not to panic in such situations and inform that what to do the rejoin if they do get lost
- SOS Drill : As a family agrees on a common emergency drill that all of you know. If misplaced or lost in the crowd, everyone should follow them, walking to the nearest security person, the nearest ticket counter, the nearest park office etc and wait, not to worry, not to panic, not to run around but wait with people who have uniforms
- Know your child : As adults we also need to understand the children, they would be excited, attracted by people dressed up as cartoon characters, would love the see cute animals, fishes, would like to eat candy, ice-cream etc. So, if you know where our children can get distracted, we can keep an eye on them
- Child watch rota : Between the adults, allocate time, so that one of you would be consciously watching the kids during that time. If you have to take a break, visit the washroom, go to a particular attraction, tell the other adult clearly what you are intending to do. Commonly, at holidays, one assumes that the other person would take care of the children and vice-versa
- Track your child : Keep chatting to the children, constant communication, explaining things will indirectly keep the attention of both on each other. Frequently just look back or have them in eye contact range
- Child leash : Young children between the age of 4-6 love to run around and explore. For them, every adult is a trust able person and will go off in many directions. We have child leash/cord, that comes as a small backpack that is worn by the child, the other end encircles the wrist of the father or mother. It doesn't look odd, many parents use this abroad especially in theme parks and crowded streets
- Frequent checks : Like how we check the time and what we have seen and what is left out, check on the children while you enter each zone and each section of the attraction. While you leave the food court or say, the bird enclosure of a zoo or after the thrill ride etc, just look back, wait until all are around and accounted for
What to do when children actually are lost?
- Stay calm : Don't panic, Don't start a fight or a whom to blame kind of argument. Just remember that time is of the essence and collect your thoughts. Although it may sound odd, staying calm and focus will help a lot at such times
- Marshall your team : If there are 2-3 children, ensure the remaining children are safe, sitting in one place, if they are teenagers then they can join you in the search of the missing toddler 6-year-old
- Alert security : The most important thing to do is, one adult, alter the nearest security person and clearly announce over the tannoy or the overhead speakers and on the open security channel that A six-year-old, boy, wearing such a dress, looks, answers to the list of names is missing, lookout urgently
- Quick search : The other adult/groups can split into two scanning the right and the left field of vision, and just retrace the steps backwards, where you went last and where you went before that. Keep a sharp lookout, children would often be attracted to a chocolate shop, a balloon man, some toys that are displayed. At times, they may even be following somebody else, thinking that it is their own parents
- Out of sight : At times children duck behind small bushes or flowering plants to pass urine or run to a water dispenser or water fountain to drink water. Basically, think like your child, what all he or she would be attracted to so much that they have forgotten the rest of family
- Potential spots : For instance, in a zoo, children will be attracted to monkeys or tortoises or birds out in the open, they will be watching their antics. In a Disney land theme park, it would their favorite superhero counter or staff in the superhero costume, the rides or a souvenir shop. So, these are the places you need to look out for
- Escalte : As time goes by, don't lose hope but make a noise, recruit more people, approach the park or the attraction staff, get as many hands as possible. Do not leave the place. One or two members can insist on calling the police, reviewing the CCTV camera footage. Keep calling out the child's pet name, announce over headphones or public address systems, in the voice of the father, mother, elder brother or elder sister that the child would recognize immediately
- Highlight visitors : Once we make enough noise to create a disturbance and people notice us, they would come forward to help. More importantly, the management staff will become more alert as escalate the issue because now the public knows that a child is missing
- Search with Images : Walk around scanning the place, showing the picture of the child to people around, the vendors or staff at small shops on the edge of the street or pavement wherein the vendor keeps looking around to attract his/her customers are very useful, approach them first
- Compliant : Lodge a formal complaint, don't leave the area, at least one adult should stay back, checking the gates etc. Approach the police and do all that is need to get the message and details of the child out to as many law or civic authorities possible
- Higher authorities : If you are in a foreign country, approach the embassy of your country and make a formal complaint. Now social media is very popular, send out images and details to your friends, the hotel staff, the taxi agencies, and known local people who can help you better
- Family care : While this is going on, ensure that the rest of children are taken care of in terms of the food and lodging. As parents, we would have a wish to eat but we have to, force yourself to eat something, drink some juice etc so that you have the energy to continue the search
- Media and press : Contact the local news or the TV reporters or anyone with access to the public media, plead, argue, do everything possible to get the information in the local news
- Suspect a kidnap : If friends and family can join you, rope them in and start your own search from where you last saw the child. By the end of a few hours, if the child is not found, then think of the possibility that the child could have been kidnapped and escalate things to the next level. At such times, don't worry about being polite, being mistaken etc. Make as much noise you can so that the theme park or the city you are in cannot ignore you and the missing child. The local authorities have to go everything they can to avoid their place getting the wrong publicity
- Government assistance : Persist with your efforts and follow-up with all the relevant authorities, get help from the embassy, your friends and family back home can meet various people in power (like the MLA, MEA etc), this will help diplomatic channels to be activated and more serious efforts will pour in
- Professional help : Continue your endeavor to search persistently, some countries the law and order system needs to be 'looked after appropriately' for it actually function if this is the case part with your money. Hire a good detective agency that specializes in search for missing people
- Social media : Flood the social media (Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram) with your pleas for help and the images, let it be forwarded to a wide number of users. You can quickly open a website, with the details, images get it search engine optimized and get your friends, work colleagues, neighbors, relatives, school contacts etc to keep visiting and posting messages. There are many such events that happen in a year around the year. One such case that took Europe by storm is that of a child from the UK, that went missing in Portugal.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Madeleine_McCann)
Conclusion: No parent should have the misfortune of facing the nightmare of their children going missing on vacations. Having some ideas and thoughts like the above will help us in such moments of crisis. Whatever we do, we should not give up hope and perseverance. We have to do all that we can pray for help and blessings. Someone somewhere will give the tiny bit of evidence or clue that we need to find the child. We should stop only when we find the missing child.