It's just been a couple of days since Canadians across the country were gathered together to celebrate the 145th birthday of the nation. That means big crowds - and when you're in Ottawa, it means really, really big crowds!
I happened to be speaking with a friend today and she mentioned that she volunteers every Canada Day (and Winterlude) for the NCC/Girl Guides Lost Children Service. The Lost Children Service is volunteer-based and RCMP is on hand for cases where children are missing for more than an hour. The service does require paperwork to be filled out on each incident.
As she was telling us about the service and how it works, I grabbed my notebook and pen to take notes. She had a lots of excellent advice for parents who are in crowded places with their children, whether there is a lost children service or not. And, since festival season is still long from being over, here are some tips!
- Label your child. Even if you've taught your son/daughter your names, numbers, address, what you're wearing, etc., the stress and fright of realizing they are separated from you may render that information temporarily lost - sometimes regardless of age. Some parents mark on their children's back with permanent marker. Others may put a sticker on the inside of the back of their shirt. If you choose a sticker - go with something tough and sticky. (These wristbands are a great idea too!) You don't want that info getting lost.
- Take a picture. Do you have a camera in your phone? Take a picture of your child(ren) in the clothes they're wearing (then you don't have to remember for a description) and in a spot with some frame of reference for height. That can be sent to someone in authority if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to track down a lost child.
- Take another picture! This one should be one of you. If your child has a device they carry with them, make sure your picture is on it. It's not unusual for the search to go both ways.
- Make a plan. It's easy to get separated in a crowded place with lots of distractions. Before getting too far in, check out the lay of the land and decide on a place to meet. Is there an information table? A ticket stand? A security desk? Figure out what makes sense for the situation you're in and communicate the plan to everyone in your party.
- Ask permission first. This probably goes without saying, but it never hurts to repeat to your children the importance of asking permission before they wander away.
- Share the load. In your group, buddy up. Pairs or trios are easier to manage. Get the kids involved with helping to look out for each other.
- Pack the necessities. And nothing more. If you're weighed down with tons of stuff that doesn't leave you a free hand to hold on to a little one, assess what's really needed and leave some things behind.
Above all, once you've done all these things and still get separated, don't panic. Remember the plan and act on it before assuming the worst.
These are just a few tips I put together from the discussion with my friend and ideas I had from my own past experiences. Let me know if you have more ideas to add in the comments!
Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping businesses use social media more effectively. Lately, she’s also busy planning a little conference and doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive.