When a Child Gets Lost

It doesn’t matter how diligent you are as a parent, at some point, you will lose your child. Losing sight of your child is an experience that you’ll never forget, the panic hits like a truck and shakes your entire being. Seconds seem like hours and you’re torn in every direction, even hysterical. 

I have no problem admitting that I have lost my child for a brief time, and that does not make me a bad parent. I think the first time was just in the house with a sly toddler who thought it would be fun to hide in the back of a closet while I ran around the house screaming all frantic-like.

Losing your child could happen while shopping, since those clothing racks are so fun to hide in {GAH!}. You could lose your child in a crowded place where everyone is so easily distracted {hey look, squirrel!} and in just a second, the person next to you could be gone. 

I must have instructed my kids a billion times over to stay with me, and while they really are great kids and do just that – there are times when we feel comfortable enough to let the rules slip and bit and then … lost child. 

In fact, just last week my daughter was looking at the ground while walking and when she looked up, she was following another family and not her own. I was a few steps behind watching her closely, and seen that panic on her face while her eyes darted around for a bit, before resting on mine. It’s just one example of how easy it is to lose track of those you’re with. 

Luckily our own experiences have only been for a short period and with a happy ending, but the point is – I have lost my child for a brief time and in that, have learned a thing or five.

when a child gets lost

Once we admit that it’s something that can and will happen, the key is to prepare both child and parents for the situation. The steps taken before the incident, is key to that positive outcome where you are a tad mad, so sad yet also very very thankful. 


Everyday Prep by the Parents:

Dress to Stand Out – Before I take the kids to crowded places, I ensure they are dressed in clothes that stand out from the crowd. It could be a neon hat, shirt or at least similar colours if you have multiple children. If asked what your kids are wearing, it’s time-saving and simple to point at your other child and say ‘this exact shirt’! A short glance in your immediate area with a quick count of ‘your people’, is much easier if they are easily recognizable from the rest. 

Take a Photo – there’s nothing worse than being asked what you kids are wearing, and drawing a blank. Even if you know what clothing they are wearing, you might second-guess yourself when in an emergency situation. So, my tip is to take a quick photo of your child with your phone when you arrive at a location, a full head to toe photo standing next to something that makes it easy to know their height. 

Tag them – For kids that are too young to recite their phone number, it;s a good idea to tag them with the necessary information. There are many methods for this one; a piece of paper tucked in their back pocket, temporary tattoos etc. Don’t make the information visible to all, yet in a standard place that one might look if needed. 

Know your Child – If they are known wanderers, take extra steps to stop their fleeing. If it’s a problem at home, realize that it’s a greater risk when out. While I didn’t tether my kids to me, I understand why some do. I know parents that made it a rule that they never let go of a ribbon attached to the stroller of their younger sibling. Take whatever steps you are comfortable with, to ensure boundaries are set and their chances to flee are limited.


So now that we parents are prepared for the day out with child, what about the child?

Does your child know what to do and say if they are lost? As soon as any kid learns to walk and talk, prepare them for a separation emergency with the following key steps.


Teaching the Child Before a Separation Situation:

Cell Number – When all of my girls were a young age, I taught them my cell number with area code. Repeat: know your cell number. While knowing your landline number is great, it really doesn’t help you when in a situation, as you most likely won’t be there. Repetition and diligence is key, and make it a song if you must, anything so that they remember!

Where they live – I’ve noticed that some younger children would answer ‘Canada’ or ‘Alberta’ when asked where they live. Which is correct and great to know, but knowing their street address and city is a must. Point out your house number and show them your street sign – ask them multiple times a day until they can recite exactly where they live. 

Parents Names – We’re all familiar with being called ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ a million times over, and once a child knows your real name, it’s irritating that they’ll call you only that for some time  – but it’s something they very much need to know. When lost and asked what their parents names are, it’s no help at all if they answer with ‘Mom’. So, at a very young age, please teach your children that we parents have names too, and make sure they know them! 

Where to Go in the Event of Being Lost – For older children, designate a location to meet if separated. For younger children, you might instruct them to stay right where they are and not wander away from the last place we were together. I always instructed my kids to find another Mom with kids in the immediate area, and say to her: ‘My name is ___ and I lost my Mom”. 

When teaching your kids about separation situations, try to keep calm. I know it’s a scary event and our instinct is to teach just that so it doesn’t happen, but we don’t want kids to be so scared of being lost that they will hide and cry when in the situation, for fear that all is lost and they will be in so much trouble. In one experience, my daughter immediately and very calmly told a lady that she was lost, which resulted in immediate action. I’m sure this step was crucial in her quick recovery, and am thankful that she kept such a clear head and didn’t totally freak out {like I was doing on my end of the hunt}.

Again, I can’t stress enough that losing a child is something that can and will happen, even to the ‘best of parents’ {take that in whichever way you want}. Yet the point is, to not think that it won’t happen to you, since there is a possibility.

Like having an at-home ‘in case of fire’ plan, preparedness is the key. Because, when it does happen – knowing what to do is what really matters in the end. 

Share your experience and any other tips you might have!


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I’m a #MomsIntuition Ambassador sponsored by Schick Intuition and while this is a compensated post, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.




  1. I have drilled into my kids what to do if they ever get lost. Let’s just hope they never do~

  2. These are great ideas. My children are of the four legged variety, so I have chipped them just in case.

  3. I can’t think of one thing to add. I think you covered every base possible. I cannot imagine having a lost child. I would die.

  4. Let your child know if they are lost in a store they should go and tell a store employee or customer service counter.

  5. We try very hard to make sure he know what he needs to know to get back to us. I am seriously obsessed with it LOL. These are all awesome tips!

  6. Ugh, I have lost my child too… It was this past Summer and my heart stopped. Thankfully, we have tried to teach them our names and phone numbers… but it is still scary. Thanks for these tips

  7. This is such important information! We try at every change we get to make sure our children know exactly what to do if they get lost.

  8. These are fantastic tips! My 9 yo son decided to stop at a friends house to play the other day, without telling me. As I walked the neighborhood looking for him, I realized I couldn’t remember what shirt he was wearing. So important to really take those things in in the morning, or snap a pic.

  9. It would be so scary to not know where your child is. I got separated from my parents when i was three in Paris on Vacation. They found me back at the car.

  10. I have been in the store and turned around and my Daughter was gone. She decided to hide in the rack of clothes. She only did for a minute and then jumped out and said Boo!. It was the longest minute of my life.

  11. I have a daughter with special needs, and she doesn’t understand the dangers of walking off from mom. So when we go to the store, she loves to go try to play “hide and seek” in the store. Gives me a panic every time. We always make sure we have a current picture of her in our phones before we take her out. She tries to run off too many times. These are great tips.

  12. So very scary to lose a child, and it happened to me yep! Shopping malls are great for this, when they are too old for strollers and get the urge to hide (and not answer either when called ) in a rack of clothes. Great advise and info for parents and grandparents alike!

  13. I have once lost my son in the department store. I was so nervous when I suddenly heard someone shouting MOMMY. It was such a relief to find him not so far away from me. These are great tips!

  14. These are some great tips. I could not even imagine if this happens, but you do need to be prepared.

  15. I have found many lost toddlers when I worked retail. It is crazy how fast kids can disappear out of a parent’s eye sight.

  16. I recently saw a lost child at Centreville and it broke my heart to see this little girl get scared and feel anxious. luckily there was a staff member around who quickly attended to them to calm them down.

  17. Nothing more scary than losing a child even for a few seconds!!! Can’t imagine the nightmare of having it happen for any longer 🙁

  18. Thank you for the reminder! I never thought about “tag them” thing. Sounds like a great precaution measure. I usually request my kids to hold my hands in crowded places, but I won’t be able to do this for much longer 🙂

  19. Thanks for the reminders and the tips! It helps to prepare your kids (and yourself) for how to prevent but also what to do if it happens!

  20. This is so important, we had a scare with our 5 year old Grandson at the Ex yesterday, we were standing 10 feet away while he and three of our other young grandkids played at the Lego tables I turned away for a few seconds and he had gone, I had quite a panic attack and then after I walked around the Lego section a couple of times he came running back from the display we had last looked at, apparently he had been looking for us! I know how I felt in those few minutes but I cannot imagine what it must be like if you cannot find them

  21. Such an important topic to address, thank you for taking the time to write this. I have lost my kids & it’s the worst feeling in the world! I quizzed my 3 year old about Mommy’s real name (which she got) but she couldn’t get past our area code so I will be working on that with her again – thanks for the reminder!

  22. I think your comments are really good and probably parents do not think of these things before they go somewhere with their child.
    My daughter and I lost her daughter once in a big store and we were in a panic. She was very quick and only two years old. Our big worry is that she would get out the door unto a busy parking lot and street. Fortunately, we found her in a few minutes and she was still inside the store. It does make you much more careful when you here out again.

  23. Great tips. Things have changed a bit since my children were small. I didn’t have a cell phone so couldn’t take a picture or teach them the cell number. Like you, I did tell them to ask a mom with kids for help. Fortunately my kids were never lost for more than a short time – though it seemed like forever to me as I was searching for them.

  24. Thanks, for your review, and the learning experience.
    Still remember when my child was Lost in the Vancouver.
    library, he was gone in seconds. But it seemed liked hours.
    He was found in the stairs, with “Mommie where were you”

  25. I remember when I lost one of my children, vividly! I’d gone down to the basement to put the washing on and he at 2 yrs old was in the living-room playing. He was just in a diaper because it was boiling hot, the patio door was open to let in some air. I came back after a couple of minutes and he was gone! Panic stations, my heart nearly jumped out I was that scared. I rushed outside to search the garden and couldn’t find him, more panic. Ran through the whole house shouting his name, he still didn’t appear. After many, many heart breaking minutes I found him asleep behind the sofa! What a relief that was as the tears flowed down my cheeks.

  26. Good tips, especially the photo. There is nothing worse than that feeling if your child is lost…even for a second.

  27. My child has special needs & losing him anywhere is a huge concern. Because he can’t communicate, so he can’t say my name or tell people he’s lost, & he’s totally unaware of his personal safety. It’s scary. You have covered some really amazing tips here that I haven’t thought of before, which will be helpful until I invest in a high-end GPS tracker which will be locked on his wrist or ankle at all times.

  28. Great tips Tammy! We had a bad experience last Christmas. At the mall, visiting Santa and of course the place was packed. My LO sees a man who she thinks is daddy and starts to run towards him. My hands are loaded in parcels and I started to panic when I couldn’t see her anymore. Just when I was ready to throw the parcels down and run for her, hubby came shooting out of a store and caught up to her. It still scares me, it was that fast and could have been bad! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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