How to Respond When Your Kids Wander Away Or Worse- Staying Safe from Child Abduction

How to Respond When Children Wander Away (Or Worse)- Staying Safe from Child Abduction

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Updated: 2/13/2019


Safety Trivia: During Christmas time, it is common to decorate with what poisonous plant? (See answer at bottom of page)

Every parent has stories about losing their kids for a moment or two in a store, at a gas station, at Disneyland, or at a park.

Those moments are nerve wracking for mother and child.

We know that children are usually just fine, but with child trafficking and other abuse out there, no parent can take any chances. 

Please comment below: Have you ever been separated from your child in public? What did you do? 

Let’s discuss this topic in the following sections:

  1. How to Be Proactive In Prevention
  2. What To Do In the Moment
  3. Skills for Your Child
  4. Worse Case Scenario

woman in white blouse and blue denim jeans helping a baby crawl on green grass

Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash

1) How to Be Proactive In Prevention

Many, many bad situations can be avoided with a little preparation on the parents’ part. Try these tips to keep your family safe:

  • Teach your children a “Magic Safety Word” that they respond to automatically. Practice and practice your word until the children know to run to mom any time they hear this word. You can use fun games, like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light to practice running to mom when you hear the word. My husband’s family uses a whistle- that works great too.
  • Teach your children their full name, phone number, and address. If they are too young, you can write it on their arm, on the inside of a jacket or shirt, on backpack tags, or on the bottom of  their shoes.
  • Get your child safety tools such as a GPS watch. 
  • Teach children to stay next to you, and teach them why.
  • Have the stranger-danger talk often. In addition to teaching children to avoid strangers, teach them about “community helpers” such as policemen or store employees who can help the child if they are ever lost.

man and woman holding baby's hand while walking on road

  • Be aware of common abduction techniques.
    • Abductors try to get their victims in the car as quickly as possible for a fast getaway.
    • Not all abductors are men. Women also help in child trafficking because they draw less suspicion than men do.
    • Abductors try to change the child’s physical appearance quickly. Some abductors carry items like a shirt or a wig to put on the child so that they do not match the physical description that people are searching for.
  • If you are going to a particularly crowded place such as an amusement park, try these tips:
    • Arrange a meeting place just in case someone gets separated from the group. If you lose each other, immediately go to the meeting place and look there first.
    • Take a picture of each child at the beginning of the day so that you know exactly what their clothing looks like in case of an incident. Use some kind of bright or unique piece of clothing that is easily recognizable.
    • Use the “buddy system”– assign each child a partner. Everyone is in charge of keeping an eye on their partner. This keeps everyone on their toes and decreases the chances of getting separated.
    • Use a sharpie to write your name and phone number on the child’s arm.


GPS Watch

Mini GPS Tracker

Backpack Labels

The Game Plan Game: Everyone Needs A Game Plan for Safety, Life Skills and Feelings Management


2) What To Do In the Moment

Despite our best efforts, children sometimes get lost in crowded places. They get distracted, they wander… it happens.

But it is terrifying because there are too many bad people in the world that would take advantage of a lost and unprotected child.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Stay calm. Getting worked up overstimulates your senses and makes you less effective. For your child’s sake, keep it together.
  2. Don’t hesitate! Act fast. Most abductions are quick and silent, so don’t worry about embarrassment. Just get to work.
  3. Use specific details to get other people looking for your child as well.
  4. Be loud. Shout the child’s name, or even better- call out a description of the child to the people around you. Abductors want to blend in and go unnoticed. If a large group of people are aware of a missing child’s physical appearance, it is difficult for an abductor to sneak away with the child.
  5. Use the resources around you. Watch for a main office, a help desk, employees, policemen, or just ask the strangers around you. They can all help.
  6. If possible, keep a family member at the location where you lost the child. Most children don’t go far.

timelapse photo of people passing the street

Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

3) Skills For Your Child To Know

In these scary situations, the child is likely scared and confused as well. Giving the child tools beforehand can help them make smart decisions.

  • Never get in anyone’s car or leave the store or location where you lost mom.
  • Never put on any different clothes than what you were wearing when you lost mom.
  • Know who the “community helpers” are. Know what clothes they wear so that you can find one to help you. Another common technique is to teach children to ask a woman with children with her, hoping that another mom will have sympathy and help the child.
  • Know your parents’ phone number, your full name, your address, etc. so that the helpers can contact mom.
  • If there is a family meeting place, teach the child to go there first. If there is no meeting place, the child should stay where he lost you.
  • Teach the child mom’s full name. People pick their own name out of background noise more than other sounds. I am more likely to hear “Becca Sheffield” over the hum of a crowd than “mommy”.

Is this information helpful? Please comment and like!

person standing on misty ground

Photo by Jakub Kriz on Unsplash

More Great Reads: 

AMAZING Miracle of Moms- Let’s All Be That Mom Every Day

The Most Important Word in the English Language (For Parents)- Remember

When Life Is On A Parent’s Side- Taking Advantage of Natural Consequences


4) Worse Case Scenario

There is a story of a boy named Jake who was ALMOST abducted in a crowded beach.

His family was enjoying a nice day, visiting vendors and booths. Jake was right next to Mommy. She let go of his hand for a second, and he was gone that fast. 

Jake’s mom called for him.

A nearby army cadet heard Jake’s mom shouting, and offered to help. He and his army buddies started shouting to the crowd, “We are looking for a boy, He is 4-years old, blonde and in a red T shirt. Have you seen him?”

Jake’s mom attributes his safety to that specific phrase.

Turns out, Jake was with a man who promised to show Jake a “real rocket ship” if Jake came with him. 

When so many in the crowd started looking for the boy in such specific detail, the abductor knew he could not get Jake away without being spotted, so he just left.

Jake was found soon after.

(Read the full story here)

woman in white dress shirt holding her daughter in tutu dress beside of asphalt road during daytime

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Please comment below: Have you ever been separated from your child in public? What did you do? 

This story makes me so scared for Jake, so angry at that man, so relieved that it all turned out ok, and so determined never to let anything happen to my own children. 

Keep your sweet little ones safe, and help the other moms around you.

There is bad in this world, but it’s nothing compared to all the good. Thank you for being the kind of moms who will help my child if she’s ever lost. And I’ll do the same for you. 


Mrs. S


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Safety Trivia Answer: Mistletoe

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Reasons Why Parenting Cliches are Right- Simple Solutions Solve BIG Problems

5 Reasons Why Parenting Cliches are Right- Simple Solutions Solve Big Problems

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This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated 2/12/2019


There have been many, many times during my career working with children and families that I have wondered “How in the world I am employed??”

I really should be out of a job.

After all, I teach the most obvious things. It’s just basic parenting skills- things like:

You know, all the everyday stuff that parents deal with. Nothing special.

And I got paid pretty well for it too, considering it’s information that everyone knows already. WHY was/is my advice worth money to so many people???

pink and white flowers

I was constantly surprised that the most basic of solutions solved gigantic problems– the kind of problems that terrorized families for years. It wasn’t me! It’s not like I invented some amazing cure to make every kid turn out perfectly.

I didn’t do anything revolutionary.

Just the same, old fashioned, good bits of advice that everyone knows. Or so I thought. Until I started teaching a lot of parents who DID NOT know. 

Granted, I went to school and had a lot of experience doing this stuff.

I started to wonder if parenting clichés aren’t as obvious as I thought they were.

  • Did I know them just because I was trained to know them?
  • If I hadn’t had the education I had and the jobs I had, would I be just as surprised to find out these “obvious” things as the other parents were?
  • Or maybe it’s just that nothing about parenting is obvious?

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Here’s what I found out.

1) The Turn Off- Why Clichés are BAD!

Lots of parents seemed surprised when I offered my advice. I assumed their surprise meant that this was either 1) A new concept for them or 2) they had never considered that an old cliche could fit their situation.

Now, I believe that both assumptions were wrong.

With a little more digging, I learned that most (if not all) parents knew the material I was presenting- at least in theory. They knew that kids need social experiences, healthy food, consistent routines, and appropriate challenges.

And yet, something was blocking the follow through for these parents so that those things weren’t happening.

footprints on sand

My next question was, “If they know these things already…. 1) Where is the problem happening? and 2) Why are they surprised to hear something they already know?”

After a lot of thought and observation, I started dividing my clients into two groups based on their reactions to the parenting advice I presented.

Here are the two categories of parents- using a Bible story to illustrate.


The Bible tells a story of a great commander. He led a strong army and held great prestige- until he contracted leprosy. In desperation, he searched out a prophet and healer in the hopes of being cured.

The healer advised him to wash seven times in the River Jordan and the leprosy would be cured. Now, the River Jordan is a muddy, filthy, sad excuse of a “river”. Not the beautiful rivers we typically think of.

The commander is immediately offended. He refuses to stoop to that level to bathe himself in mud. He is of high status and power after all! So, he leaves angrily and does not even try the healer’s suggestion.

If I could put this attitude into words, here’s how it would sound:

“I am surprised that you are offering me such a simple solution. I have already tried all the simple solutions and won’t try any more. If it were simple, I could think of the answer on my own. I will not try your solution because it is too easy and therefore must be invalid.”

man kneeling


The Bible story continues:

As the commander is angrily riding home in his chariot, his servant thinks over what just happened.

Eventually, the servant works up enough courage to challenge the commander. The servant reminds the commander that if the healer had asked him to try some grand, spectacular, courageous thing to earn his health back, the commander would have tried it. Gladly. 

Why then would the commander refuse to complete something that is easy and simple?

The commander is humbled. He follows the healer’s suggestions and is cured of his leprosy.

If I could put this attitude into words, here’s how it would sound:

“I am surprised that you are offering me such a simple solution. It seems like I have already tried something similar to that, but I will try again. If it works, my problem could be solved! If not, I’m not out anything and may even be closer to a solution. Why not try?”

The problem with clichés is that people don’t accept them anymore.

By definition, they are overused and that takes away from the power and truth of what is being said- even when it’s exactly the right answer to a problem. 

2) Facing Reality- Why Clichés are GOOD!

The problem with clichés being bad is that they’re not! Clichés are good!

yellow arrow road sign

They are almost always right! That’s WHY they are overused.

People repeat them and repeat them because they are true. They are universal. They help in a variety of situations and problems.

The problem with clichés isn’t the cliché. The problem with clichés is that people get too prideful to accept them because they’ve heard them before.

It’s easy to assume that because I have heard the phrase many times, I must be living it perfectly. But I’m not.

The problem isn’t the cliché- the problem is the person.

3) It’s NOT Obvious When You’re In It

I’m not saying people are idiots.

I believe most people are smarter than even they understand.

But being inside a real live, explosive situation is infinitely different than observing from the outside.

The answers seem obvious when you are looking in objectively, even though they are not obvious to those who are swamped with emotions and frustrations and a million other things going on.

black smoke burst in brown open field at daytime

When I became a parent, I was surprised that I didn’t have all the answers.

I know, how silly and prideful could I be?

But I assumed that I had seen enough and learned enough that parenting would be easier. But it wasn’t and it’s because of this principle. I was too involved to see clearly (and also acting like the Commander from the scenario above). 

I can see things in other people’s lives (because I’m an objective bystander) that I can’t see in my own (because I’m emotionally attached to the situation).

And I believe that others can see things in my life that might not be clear to them in their own life- for the same reasons.

4) If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Do It

Sometimes we can see places that we could improve. But it’s still hard to make it happen.

When I became a parent, I found that I had to force myself to live the principles that I had always taught to other parents… and I was surprised to find that I didn’t want to!

I didn’t want to because it was hard.

woman wearing pink tank top holding wood stick during sunrise

Even though I knew that those typical parenting bits would work, it was still hard.

I had to change old habits and create new ones that fit into this new world of responsibility and teaching. That gave me new empathy for all the parents that I had taught.

I realized that even though you know a cliché (but true) fact, it is harder to put it into practice EVERY SINGLE DAY. Often multiple times a day.

Why don’t we have a plethora of perfect parents running around? Because the grind of the day to day gets to people.

If we could all focus on our parenting and nothing else, I bet we could perfect it. But we can’t. We need energy and time and focus for all the other things in our lives that we are responsible for- jobs, taking care of our home, supporting our community.

Parenting is hard, so we mess up sometimes. Even at the things that we know.

5) Emotional Support Goes a Long Way

There was one last surprise for me in all my observations.

There seemed to be a third category that I didn’t notice at first, beyond the “Commanders” and the “Servants” from the Bible story.

I don’t really know what to call it… But if I could put the attitude into words, it would sound like this:

“I know what I need to do. I am humble enough to try your suggestions. I just can’t do it on my own. All I need is a little extra push. I need someone to keep me on track or someone to tell me I’m doing a good job or someone to remind me why what I’m doing is important. I just don’t want to be left alone with all this on my shoulders.”

group of people hand gesture

I loved working with these parents. These were parents who knew what to do, but they lacked confidence in themselves.

With just a tiny push from friends and loved ones, they were wonderful and successful parents. They often excelled at the principles we taught as soon as they learned to trust themselves as parents.

Sometimes we don’t follow clichés just because our struggle is something different, something inside ourselves.

A little help goes a long way!

Clichés are Cliché for a Reason

What is a cliché?

Something that has been said so much that it is overused.

But what motivates people to repeat something that much? Something that everyone has heard already?

Because it is true, it works, and it’s universal.

To me, a cliché is a simple principle that applies to almost anyone’s life in a variety of different situations.


This blog is full of clichés.

And that’s on purpose.

Parenting clichés work.

And I don’t want to or know how to reinvent the wheel. I’m not smart enough. So I’ll stick to what smarter people than me have said. And repeated. Over and over.

Even if you’ve heard it before…. Because it works.

And I’ll try along with you to be a little better at applying those clichés into my day-to-day.


Mrs. S


Please share with any parent who feels cliché.

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