When a child gets lost or left behind

Something scary happened today at Connor’s preschool, and I feel the need to share the story. First please let me be clear, I do not blame his teachers whatsoever for what happened. It was an honest mistake, and as parents we know that mistakes and accidents are unfortunately a necessary evil of life, we just do whatever we can to try and avoid them. And that is why I want to share this story, in hopes that it will encourage other parents to have the conversations I wish I had had before today.

At school today, his class left their classroom to go to the play area in the main part of the building (outside of the preschool and its security). Their policy is to count heads any time they go anywhere. But for whatever reason today, a mistake was made in counting as they left the room. Connor was in the bathroom, and they left without him, not realizing he was missing.

Another teacher across the hall discovered Connor, who came out of the bathroom, found his class gone, got scared, and started crying. Thankfully Connor knew to stay put in his classroom, and I cannot thank God enough for that, because it’s not something I ever told him to do. Now after the fact, I can only imagine him trying to follow behind his class, leaving the preschool and entering the main building that is open to the public, and who knows what could have happened next. He could have gotten hurt, lost, kidnapped, my imagination carries me away at this point… too many years in the news business and I always envision the worst.

We have had limited conversations with Connor in the past: about not talking to strangers, looking for a store worker or police officer if we ever got separated at the store, etc. But there haven’t been enough conversations, not nearly enough. I never told Connor to stay put if he gets lost or left behind, how did he know to do that today??? But I should have told him that. That if he gets separated from us, I don’t want him to wander after me looking for me, and potentially get hurt or worse. I want him to stay put, so I know where to find him and he stays safe.

We have been way too lax about all these safety measures. It’s easy to be when your kids are rarely out of your sight. But Connor will be gone to school all day next year, and I haven’t done a good enough job of preparing him for the potential dangers that are out there. So that’s what we will do now. We will have specific conversations about what to do if he gets lost, what to do if a stranger approaches him and says Mommy and Daddy said he should go with that stranger, which adults are safe to trust and which are not, and whatever other scenarios I can possibly think of.

And I want to encourage all the other parents of young kids reading this to please do the same. Sometimes we think our kids are too young and it doesn’t apply, or that we shouldn’t scare them unnecessarily with “what if’s”…. but if those conversations can prevent something terrible from happening, then the time to have them is right now.

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