As a parent, there are few things scarier than the idea of your child going missing. That moment when you are in a store or at the playground, and you turn around and they are not there is sickenly awful.
So when mother of three, Jess Martini, shared an invaluable piece of advice on TikTok about what to do if your child goes missing, we dropped everything and paid attention. Because as Martini says, "things happen...to the best parents" and being prepared can make a huge difference.
Here's the video:
Martini says that "you want to loudly start looking for them. Do not start silently looking for them. You want to look loudly." This means shouting their description while you are looking for them.
"I'm looking for a boy, age 5, short brown hair, brown eyes, caucasian, red Nike t shirt, black shorts, and you're going to keep repeating yourself while you look over and over again."
Instinctively so many of us would start to call out our child's name. But she explains that by shouting their description, "you've got every single person who is around you also looking for your child instead of just you." Martini explains in a follow-up video that shouting a name might not help you find the child since other people won't know what to look for.
You can also find an employee and ask them to shut down the store so no one can leave.
On a related note, Martini recommends always noting what shoes your child is wearing before heading out; she argues that a kidnapper might quickly change a child's shirt, but changing their shoes is harder.
Martini shared a crucially important reminder: You might feel "stupid" doing this—it doesn't matter. "It is so much better to look stupid" and to find the child.
Lastly, Martini suggests taking a quick photo of your child before heading into crowded places; if they get lost, having an up to date photo could be very helpful.
Mother and teacher Kelli Hoobler- Rappa recently shared that she tried this—and it worked. As she was getting her kids into her van, she realized that a child wasn't with her. Some of the adults ran in one direction shouting his name, while Hoobler-Rappa started shouting his description, in addition to shouting "I am missing a child."
She says, "This caused other mothers to stand up, and other adults and other people to start looking [for] him—we found him within 15 seconds."
There are a few other tips to keep in mind if a child goes missing:
- Tell someone to call 9-1-1; do this yourself or delegate this to someone nearby.
- If you are somewhere where there are danger zones (like a body of water) check there first.
This is incredibly awful to think about, but we are so grateful to the parents who have shared this potentially life-saving information.