If your child gets lost in the mall

By Drum Digital
27 April 2014

It’s every mother’s worst fear. One moment you’re studying the price tag on a pair of shoes - and the next your child has vanished. We give you some expert advice on what to do in this terrifying situation.

Initially you think she’s behind the next rack of clothing or that something in the toy division has attracted her attention. Perhaps she’s just ambled over the shop next door. When you realize your child has vanished you begin to panic.

What to do if your child goes missing in a mall

“Immediately inform the shop’s security guard that your child is missing,” says Nicky Rheeder, the national coordinator of Missing Children SA. “Ask him to inform the shopping centre management so the exits can be locked or watched.”

As soon as you’ve reported your child missing to the centre management, they will inform the police. “The police will be in readiness for a half an hour. If your child isn’t found in that time they will be sent to the mall to help search,” says Roxanne Horn, the events coordinator at Tyger Valley shopping centre in Bellville, near Cape Town.

Then do the following:

  • Give a detailed description of your child to the security guards.
  • Shout your child’s name, age and description as loudly as possible to get people to help you search.
  • Make sure the centre management has called the police.
  • Ask the security guards to search the men’s and women’s toilets.
  • Phone Missing Children SA on 072-647-7464 for support.

“Teach your child a safety plan from an early age in case she gets lost in a shopping centre,” Nicky advises.

A few rules to learn:

  • If your child gets lost at the mall she must go to the security guards in front of the shop and wait there.
  • Don’t leave a shop without your child by your side. Teach her the same thing. “This prevents cases of parents and children searching for each other in different parts of the centre, which makes the child even more vulnerable,” says Nicky.
  • Regularly practice your safety plan. When you’re in a shopping centre ask your child to point out the security guards.
  • If a stranger approaches your child she should shout as loudly as possible, “You’re not my daddy or mommy!” Other shoppers will know something’s wrong.
  • Always keep a recent photograph of your child on hand – even if it’s on your cellphone.
  • Be aware of what your child looks like every day – what she’s wearing, her hairstyle and what shoes she’s wearing.

- Shané Barnard

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