Last year while visiting Walt Disney World, I experienced one of my worst mommy moments ever. I lost my 10 year old son in the crowds at Hollywood Studios. Yes, we were all distracted by the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and while everyone was looking up at the display, we lost track of each other. It happened in an instant. He was gone. I KNEW he was close by, however, the crowds and the music made it impossible for him to hear me screaming his name.
I had heard of this type of thing happening to others, but never really understood how it could really happen. Well, it can. Even with an older child. Let me share with you some tips on what to do to prevent this from happening and what to do if it ever does.
Take a Picture: Take a picture with a mobile phone each morning of your child. This will help tremendously when you are asked to describe what your child looks like. When you a in a panic, it is amazing how your brain cannot function. My son had his whole face painted like Darth Maul that day but I completely forgot to say that when I was describing what he looked like!! UGH!
Tuck in a note: Slip a business card or a simple note with your name and phone number in your child’s pocket. Make sure you tell your child what it is for so that they are able to give the information to someone who is trying to help them. Some people make identification bracelets or use the ID stickers. Any of those will serve the purpose.
Carry your child: When exiting a large show or attraction where there is a large crowd of people leaving, pick up your child if possible. It is easy for a small child to get swept up in the mass of people leaving. Make sure you at least have them by the hand or even by the shirt until you are in the clear!
Magic Bands: I have been hearing a lot of people saying they don’t keep the magic bands on their small children. The parents will hold the band for the child or even leave the band in the room if the child is under 3 and does not need it for entrance to the parks. LEAVE THE MAGIC BAND ON! All of your information is on your child’s magic band! If your toddler keeps trying to take it off, try to find a way to attach it to their clothing. Bands of lost children can be scanned and phone numbers found via the magic bands.
Practice With Your Child: Take the time before your trip to practice what to do if they cannot find you. There are different opinions on what to tell your child to do. I told my children to look for a cast member wearing a name tag or another ‘mom’ or family with children. Chances are, another mom will drop everything to help another child. Dads, I know you all would do the same, unfortunately most parents will not tell their child to go to a strange man. Another mom spoke to my son and helped him find his way to a merchandise stand where the cast members kept him safe.
Arrange a meeting place: This may not be an option for those with very small children, and even those who are older may get overwhelmed by the idea of trying to locate a landmark, however, it is a good backup plan. Choose a spot as you enter the park and show your child where you will be if you get separated.
Don’t Panic! I know, I know, easier said than done! Believe me, my husband and I panicked! A lot! He took off running in one directions, my mother-in-law in the other, while I stayed in one spot with my other children. My advice is to stay in one spot and ask for a cast member. A lovely woman heard me screaming my son’s name and brought a cast member to me. She immediately calmed me down and asked specific questions about my son. age, height, clothing, shoes, name. She was very calm and reminded me over and over that they deal with this MANY times a day and they WILL find my son. I was instructed to stay in the same spot and they would bring him to me.
Trust in Disney Magic Disney cast members are trained on what to do in these situations. They have a specific system in place for each type of scenario. I could hear the cast members’ radio speaking to others within the park looking for my son. What is the system? I don’t know, but it is magical because they brought my son to me within minutes (although it seemed like an eternity). Disney has a policy of taking a lost child that is found without their parents to the Baby Care Center within each park. If possible , have one parent head over there while the other stays where the cast member tells you to!
Hug your child! Emotions and fear may get the best of you, but do not yell at your child when you are reunited! They are even more scared than you and will need to understand that you were looking for them and they were not forgotten about! They need to know that they are not in trouble! It can happen to the best of us! I was so relieved to see my son’s Darth Maul face paint streaked with tears, I did not let go of him the rest of the week!
I was fortunate that my son was old enough to speak up and let someone know that he was lost. However, even at 10 years old he was terrified and very upset. Remind your children daily of the need to speak to someone who can help you. If your children are old enough have them memorize your CELL phone number. Most kids know their home phone # by heart even at an early age but most do not know your cell#!
Lastly, take a deep breath and enjoy your vacation! Chances are you will not lose your child, we had traveled to WDW countless times with our children and never experienced this before! Have fun, but hold your child’s hand a little tighter!
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