Today I’m reviewing book 1 in the survival series from J Wayne Fears titled How to Lost Proof Your Child. As a mom few things are more terrifying than losing your child. Two years ago while at a boardwalk arcade in New Jersey, my daughter (then two), walked away from me and her sister while we were all admiring the flashing lights of a coin machine. My attention was elsewhere for no more than 10 seconds and it was probably eight seconds longer than hers. I looked down to ask her if she liked the lights and she wasn’t there. Not just two steps away, nowhere that I could see.
Terror immediately set in-but I shoved it to the side, knowing would serve no one. Thankfully I found my daughter before I had even finished dialing my phone to call my husband or getting myself to the counter to alert workers that my daughter was lost. My daughter had wandered to a family with kids about her age. The mother of whom told me that my daughter had just come over “a moment ago” and that she wouldn’t have let her wander away. Even though she didn’t know she was lost, my daughter did one of the things Fears lists in his guide: she found a mother with children.
The book is broken into nine chapters covering suburbia, the woods, and back country. Suburbia covers events (sporting, music, church, etc.) school, malls: mostly public places. The chapters dedicated to these settings give you knowledge to hopefully prevent losing your child as well as what to do if it does happen. Things like dressing your child in bright, easy to spot clothing, having your cell phone number pinned to an obvious place on your youngsters clothing, having your older child carrier cell number in a pocket if they can’t remember it, and carrying a recent photo of your child (you do have one in your wallet don’t you?) are some of the tips he gives to hopefully prevent loss in public settings. He suggests that a plan for your youngster’s school is also necessary. I thought this was unnecessary until I read his reasoning. Does your child know what to do if you’re running late, if practice is canceled last minute, or if they miss the bus? Sometimes over planning is a good thing.
Chapter 5 is the shortest, scariest, and most critical: What to do when a child is lost. This chapter covers the steps to take to reunite child and parent. Fears also stresses that quick action and remaining calm are crucial. Remaining calm may be one of the most difficult but most important keys to finding your child. The need to be able to work with those searching to give information needed to find your child is significantly diminished if you’re spazzing out. (my words, not his)
The chapter dedicated to being lost in back country provides clear procedures to follow if your child should become lost. Tips like stay on the path, stay warm, do not hide, and use the whistle may seem like common sense when you’re sitting in your living room but could mean all the difference when camping. Using a whistle comes up more than once in the book, and with good reason. Fears sites its use as being louder and lasting much longer than one’s voice; which makes it a great signaling device. (Anyone who’s been to a children’s party knows those whistles pack a wallop to tender ears!) Also, teaching your child that the signal whistle is NOT a toy is stressed, for the obvious reasons.
Another step for loss prevention given in the guide is to stay alert; and this tip is aimed at the parent. Your job as a parent is to be aware of what your kids are doing and where they are. Fears quotes a National Park Service search leader, stating: “Parents simply cannot fully relax where their children are concerned in potentially hostile environments”. On the other side, having a child know what to do when they are lost is one of the most important things they can do, should that occasion arise. What they should do is STOP. The “Hug-a-Tree” program (www.nasar.org) is cited by Fears as one of the best programs ever developed to help children stop when they realize they are lost. This program teaches children to “hug” the tree to help them get over fear of being alone, and to stop them from wandering. For older children, STOP is an acronym for Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan. Both tactics are followed with instructions to use the whistle, stay on the trail and not to hide.
The final chapter is a very brief recap of the key points in the book as well as a small section regarding the movement pattern of children by age. An appendix includes an in depth review of hypothermia, including ways to avoid hypothermia, signs of it, and conditions needed for it to set in.
For the retail price of around $10, I say this book is a must have. Not just for those who like to camp in the woods, but for any parent. I consider it as vital as knowing CPR and first aid. Take advantage of Fears’ wealth of training and knowledge in this well thought out and simply presented guide.
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