It is only natural that we worry about unlikely situations like loosing children in public places. We don't ever want this to happen, but is there a way to prepare for it?
There are rules in many families to prevent that unlikely separation. I hear parents all the time saying things like "I must see you all the time" or "you need to hold my hand". That's a good start.
There are good practices in some families like memorizing full name, address, phone number…etc. When going to common places like the park, school, grocery store…asking child to guide the way is always a good exercise.
Making the effort to be friendly to other community members is also a good step.
But how do you prepare for when the separation happens? Training all parties: Parents, children, and staff members in large venues should all be prepared for this situation.
I will tell you now that most stores and venues don't do a great job training their staff on effective ways to handle a child if lost and in distress. They train staff on how to handle a lost child in a perfect world where child speaks, speaks the language, and gives them all the information they need to help find the parents. This does not happen in reality. Unless parent is making efforts at the other end, staff gets stuck.
Just the other day, I watched staff handling a lost toddler boy who got carried away playing with a ball. He was too shy and perhaps didn't even speak English, so they couldn't get a word out of him. With no name, no parent name, and no official language, staff was stuck.
Soon after, happy and calm lady shows up, the boy starts walking towards her, which is apparently enough of a sign that they know one another personally. She takes his hand, puts him in a cart. Thanks the staff and goes, leaving several dropped jaws, but that's about it. I would have preferred if they had taken a copy of her ID before releasing the boy, but that's just me.
What would you do if your child got carried away playing with a ball. Hopefully, you would be getting every staff member on your team as soon as possible, especially if they are too young/too shy. Staff members have ways to connect. You want as many eyes helping you as possible.
My family goes through an exercise every time we visit a large venue. As a family game, we look for ways to identify staff members. Then, as soon as we get a chance, we ask a staff member how they handle lost children and what they expect from us if this happens. Some were so friendly that they let us do a dry run for practice. That doesn't happen often.
In general, my daughter knows that if she can't find us:
*Find staff member and ask to broadcast message to help find us by name.
*Ask staff member to lead her to the kid friendly section of the store, so she can be entertained. This also serves as a pre-set meeting point for us.
*STAY PUT. Nothing should move her out of this section except us. No office, no police officer, no staff member, no one. She is there, and will stay there until we come find her.
*Under absolutely no circumstances should she leave the store with a stranger.
What do these rules do? They give us a plan. They help us stay focused if such an emotionally charged situation occurs, and helps us understand how to get help from staff.
Hopefully, it will never happen.