What If My Child Got Lost? Questions for Every Parent

Editor’s Note: The following story describes every parent’s worst nightmare: their child is lost, or separated from them. They are alone. We first published this story in July of 2010. In honor of our 5 Year Bloggiversary, we are publishing 5 of our favorite posts – one from each year since the day we started. This is our second “look back” post. Our thanks to Jim Love, a former member of our PedSafe Expert Team, for reminding us to ask the questions that will ensure our kids get help when they need it most.


This past weekend I was out walking my pack o dogs on one of our many trails. We were almost back to the parking lot and let me tell you we were hot. I had some bottles of water for me and a jug of water for Boy sitting in field with bicyclethe dogs. Right where we were to turn off to the parking lot there is a “T”. You could go North or South or to the parking lot. Here at this T junction was a special needs teenager on a adult tricycle looking back and forth, North and South, North and South. I watched for a minute while the dogs panted and waited. I asked him if he needed help and his response was to ask where his Dad was. This young man’s name was Brian. He had passed me about ten minutes earlier and was alone – no one else was with him.

Brian did not know whether to go North or South or which direction he had just come from. On his own he did not know what to do. He did know his Dad’s cell number. Brian did not have a phone but I never go anywhere without mine so we called his Dad. Of course we got voice mail but Brian left a message. We walked/rode to my car and we all had some water. Within about 10 minutes, Dad called back, very worried. Dad did not know the area very well and another hiker and I were able to eventually talk him to where we were. Brian had actually made it quite far – several miles at least.

When Dad along with Mom showed up, one of Mom’s questions was to ask whether or not Brian had asked for help? …whether or not he recognized he was in trouble on his own and asked for help. My answer to Mom that he did not, visibly upset her. Even though this was a minor event that turned out well – I’ve given it quite a lot of thought.

  • When does a child know they are in trouble?
  • When do they know it is time to ask for help?
  • When is a child too young to go off riding on their own or walking to a neighbor?
  • A recent article here on PediatricSafety reminded parents to teach the 911 number to their young children. Along with 911 do our kids know our phone numbers?
  • What is the right age to consider a cell for our kids for emergencies if for no other reason?
  • Do our kids know our real names are not Mom and Dad?
  • Do they know their address?
  • If we are separated from our kids do they know what to do? Do we?

I like to think that I’m a pretty decent guy and I tend to think most people are too. Most – not all – as the headlines remind us. It only takes seconds or minutes for something bad to happen. I realize this asks more questions that it provides answers. I hope others chime in and offer sound advice.

About the Author

Jim is a transportation safety expert with more than 40 years in both the emergency medical services and the school bus industries. Jim is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team and is proud to have been one of the original contributors to PediatricSafety.net more than 13 years ago.


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