What to Do if Your Child Goes Missing in a Store

What to Do if Your Child Goes Missing in a Store


Shopping with kids in tow is almost never fun or easy. Now it’s even more difficult thanks to the added pressure of social distancing, mask-wearing, and coronavirus anxiety.

In a perfect world, you could leave your children safely at home with another adult while you do the shopping. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality for most of us. While we can’t promise to make the experience any easier, we can offer some tips on how to keep your kids safe in stores.

If You Get Separated

Kids who are old enough to walk by themselves are going to run after some shiny new toy or treat eventually. Stores are designed to tempt kids just as much as adults. Instead of forbidding your children to run off, it’s more realistic to tell them what to do if you get separated.

If the kids can’t find you for any reason, they should go to the cashier’s station and ask for help. They need to wait there instead of wandering the store; it’ll be much easier to find each other if they stay put.

Decide on a Code Phrase

Kids should know never to leave a location with anyone they don’t know. In the unlikely event that you need to send someone else to get your children, a family code phrase can be a literal life-saver.

Decide on a phrase that your family can all remember. If someone approaches your children without that phrase, the kids will know they can’t be trusted.

Start a Code ADAM

If you can’t find your child right away, don’t wait to keep looking. Immediately find a store employee and ask them to start a Code Adam. This protocol, named after the kidnapped and murdered son of TV host John Walsh, will put the store into lockdown. No one goes in or out, and all employees will be on the lookout for the missing child.

Consider Curbside Pickup

Many stores have adopted curbside pickup during the pandemic. This can be a huge time saver for your family–and it’s much safer overall, too. Beyond the risk of child abduction, stores pose another threat. Kids like to touch everything, and they may not be as vigilant about washing their hands before touching their faces or wearing masks properly.

That’s a recipe for potential contamination, so if you can get your groceries delivered to your car instead of going into the store, consider trying it out.