How to Teach Your Child What to Do When He or She is Lost

Teach your child how to read a map.

Children who have some grasp of how to get from where they are to where they want to be are less timid, more self-reliant, and more confident about surviving in the “real” world.

Nearly every child will experience at least a brief moment of panic as he or she realizes, “I’m alone!” or “I’m lost!” It can happen any time the child gets mo­mentarily separated from the family or group in the jostle and rush of a crowd.

The first response of a child is usually to call for help —even if it’s only a silent, inner shout. The second response is usually to cry. You can help your child know what to do as a third response. Teach your child to take the steps that will help him or her find the way back to the group, to safety, or home.

Teach your younger child what to do if he or she feels lost. The number-one principle your child should re­member is to stay put. Assure your child that you will probably soon realize he or she is missing. Explain that because you are taller, you’ll probably be able to find him or her even before he or she can spot you. How­ever, you won’t be able to search as easily if he or she continues to move around!

Teach your child early to speak his or her name clearly, and to give a full name when asked. Children as young as two- or three-years-old can also learn their address and phone number.

Teach your child your name, too. Let your child know that you have a name other than “Mommy” or “Daddy” and that you use that name with other adults.

Teach your child to look for an adult with a badge of some kind. A badge, of course, is readily visible on a law enforcement officer or a security officer. A nametag such as the kind belonging to a store clerk or a recep­tionist might also be considered a badge. Train your child to say, “I’m lost. Can you help me? My name is __I was with__” Assure your child that getting lost doesn’t mean he or she is stupid. And be sure to tell your child never to leave an area or get into a car with a stranger, even one with a badge.

Being lost can also mean being off-course. That’s when map-reading skills become important.

You can make a map of your yard, your block or apartment complex, your neighborhood, or your favor­ite park. Have the child identify key landmarks. Then use the map to get from a designated point A to point B. The very activity of creating a map helps your child become more observant of his or her surroundings—a key skill to have if he or she becomes lost.

When you take trips or run errands, occasionally have your child play the role of navigator. Show your child how to read a map of your city and how to trans­late two-dimensional directions to the three-dimen­sional world outside the car window.

As you visit local shopping centers, amusement parks, and zoos, look for the maps often located at en­trances or near elevators. Show older children how to find the “you are here” spot and then how to locate where it is that you want to go. When you are entering a mall, park, or large building together, it’s a good idea to identify a place where you will meet should you be­come separated. Deciding on a meeting spot and know­ing how to read a map to get there can give children a great deal of confidence in a new environment.

Show your child how to make a simple map from verbal instructions. Also, teach your child how to give directions from a map. Ask your child to make a map of your local supermarket and give directions from it.

Be willing to ask directions when you get off-course. Teach your child by example that there’s no fault or embarrassment in asking. Most people are eager to help with directions.

Children who know where they are, where they’re going, and where they’ve been are children who have confidence. Teaching your child how to take and give directions and map-reading skills says to your child, “I value you too much to let you feel lost and helpless. I want you to be found. I want to be with you.” A child with high self-esteem is a child who feels “found.”

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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