Lost Kid on a Hike... What do you do?
One of the biggest fears of a parent is not knowing where their child is and that would be even worse in areas like the great outdoors. Adrenaline at a max, driven by fear and helplessness. I am so fortunate that this has not happened to me or any parent that I know.
As a parent, try not to wait too long before you start to ask other hikers if they have seen your lost kid or at least inform them that you are concerned. Also, do not hesitate to yell or give a prearranged call out. The person looking for a lost hiker should not use a whistle to call because the whistle is a signal for the lost to use.
I was on a hike with friends recently when we encountered a dad looking for his eleven year old son. There were many side trails, including a loop around the lake we were at, and the dad was taking these trails for a quarter mile and then hustling to the next one.
After asking him for a description of his son, we headed down towards the main parking lot. Luckily my party did find the boy, who was with some concerned adult hikers trying to help. Having the description, I validated to the couple and the boy, that his dad was for sure back up the trail.
In this case, both the son and the dad were nervously wandering around looking for each other. I think the number one thing families can do to avoid getting separated or lost, is to talk about the "what if's" often.
- Create a family plan and stick to it every time out on the trail.
- Make sure kids are taught to stay on the trail.
- Talk about always being able to see each other. I see you, you see me rule.
- Stay put if you realize you are lost, someone will be looking for you.
- Make sure you are in a visible spot. Do not hide!
- Make noise. Yell, sing, or blow a whistle if they have one.
Talk to your kids about being lost and not letting fear overcome them:
- You are someones son or daughter and your parents or guardians WILL be looking for you.
- Animals do not want anything to do with you and will run away if they see, hear, or smell you.
- It's dark, but nothing in the woods actually changes; it's just darker.
- If you are feeling lonely, try to talk to yourself out loud or sing.
- If you hear something, the best reaction is to make noise. It may be someone looking for you or an animal that will be afraid of your voice.