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<p>I have a 5.5yr old boy a 2.5 yr old boy and a baby girl due in 6 weeks.  We were at the mall today and the boys were playing in the play area.  It was time to go and I asked my 5yr old ot put his shoes on and got distracted with the 2yr old and when I turned around he was gone.  At first I thought he has to be around here somewhere, there were alot of kids so maybe I just wasn't seeing him or he ran to the bathroom.  I checked there next and didn't find him and went to get security.  I was in a panic by now and felt so helpless.  The thoughtsthat run thru your mind when you can't find your child are horrible. He was located a 1/2 hr later on the other side of the mall riding the escalator.  When I finally got to him at the security center he was happy to see me but not upset in the least.  I of course was a mess.  He didn't have a answer as to why he left the area.  Maybe he thought he as following me and lost track I don't know but he just seemed so unafraid.  How do you stress to a 5yr old how important it is to stay close?  The reason I ask is he did something similar on wed at the zoo.  he was with me and the 2yr old in the reptile cave.  I told him to stay in the cave with us and stay close.  He was ther one minute and gone the next. I found him alot faster that time as it was a small zoo and not very busy on a wed morning.  I feel like at this point being so far along in the pregnancy and having the 2yr old, I just can't take him out now into a public place with alot of activity.  He just really seems so unconcerned when he gets seperated from me.  Any ideas how to stress the importance of sticking close?</p>
 

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<p>Oh mama, I don't have any words of wisdom, but I couldn't read and not give a hug.  :hug   I am so sorry.  That sounds absolutely terrifying.  :hug</p>
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<p>I think that you are not wrong that for now you should not do outings on your own with the kids to places where he might be able to wander off.  I also would not hesitate to show him your fear.  To get very serious when you talk to him about this.  Make him hold your hand (or the side of the stroller if you're using one with your 2 yr old) every time you're out for a while.  Let him know that you'd like to take him to x,y or z, but you can't until you are certain that he won't run off again.  Just some thoughts...</p>
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<p>:hug</p>
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<p>I know a leash/harness is a debatable thing around here, but have you considered using one with him? I would explain to him about the dangers of wandering off and explain to him that you need to do everything you can to keep him safe. We used a harness for a long time with my ds when he was younger, but not in awhile. We had the red one with a little Elmo patch on the front of it. We still have it and if ds wandered off twice in a week I wouldn't hesitate to use it again (well, the harness wouldn't fit him but it comes apart so I can attach one end of the "leash" to his hand and the other end to mine). My ds has autism and is a wanderer/runner but if he disappears once we generally don't take him out for a little while until he's over it (it comes and goes in spurts with him).</p>
 

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Oh Mama. I'm so sorry. That must have been terrifying!<br><br>
Personally, I think it's important to parent to a childs level of responsibility. So, if I had a child who wandered off like that, if I had to be in a busy place like you've described, I would use a tether.<br><br>
I know there are parents who will just say to be more aware, watch him closer etc...but don't tether him but, kids can slip away in an instant. So for me, I wouldn't worry about what anyone else thought and I'd keep my kid tied to me when in busy/large public places until the child is able to show the understand the rules about wandering off.
 

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<p>I also tell my daughter about the bad people out there who will take her. I don't mean to scare her, but she needs to know about the world and who is out there. We also talk about what to do if she does get lost - find a mommy and ask for help, if she can't find a mommy then find a woman. This thread is a good reminder for me to do it again, after all, 4 year olds forget.</p>
 

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<p>How incredibly scary for you!</p>
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<p>Given what you said, it's very clear that he doesn't get the danger of wandering off. Because of that, I think a couple of changes are in order: When you're out, he has to stay within arms' reach of you, unless you're some place like a playground where it's OK for him to run. If, for some reasons, you need to tend to your younger child (and soon to be children), then he needs a specific place to sit and stay until you are done. He's lost the privilege of independence for now. If he can't do that, then I agree that a leash (backpack leashes work well) is in order. With 3 kids and one set of hands, you need to be able to know where he is.</p>
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<p>Second, I would teach him (in low stress situations to start with) that <em>he</em> needs to be able to see <em>you</em> at all times. Most parents get upset when their kids wander away so the parent can't see the kid, but the child has no idea when the parent can't see them or not. Generally, if your child can see, you can see them. Stop and ask him frequently "Can you see me?" I did this with my kids when they were 3-4, and I think it helped them understand the concept of staying close to me. Admittedly, my kids aren't wanderers, so it didn't take much teaching. It might take quite a bit more for a child with a different temperament.</p>
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<p>FWIW, I don't tell my children that there are 'bad' people out there who will take them. That is, in my opinion, unnecessarily alarmist (the instances of stranger abduction are rarer than lightening strikes), and it also doesn't teach my children anything helpful.</p>
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<p>Instead, what we've taught them (though as I type this I realize they need a refresher) is:</p>
<p>1. Stay where you can see me. It's my job to keep you safe, and if I can't see you, I can't know if you're safe.</p>
<p>2. If you can't see me, STOP MOVING. In the woods, hug a tree. In a store, stand at the end of an aisle. They understand (not sure how) that if they're moving and looking for me, and I'm moving and looking for them, it's easy to miss each other. If they stand still, I can find them more easily. It's MY job to find them, and their job to stand still.</p>
<p>3. If you need to ask someone for help, look for a woman, especially a woman with kids. Since there are vanishingly few women who abduct strange children, it's a safe choice. If for some reason they can't find a woman with kids, an older woman or a female store employee are good choices.</p>
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<p>And I second the choice of reading "Protecting the Gift".</p>
 

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<p>I'm glad that You decided to share the story with us, it must have required a lots of courage from Your side. Can't even think about what You felt. My advice would be NOT to tell him about all the "evilt people" etc. as some people do. It scares the hell out of the children. Instead just keep on talking with him, saying how scared you are when you can't see him. It worked with my 6yo, and he know not to get separated from me. But it's highly dependant on his personality. Maybe he is jealous about your 2yr and the expected new kid? He might be doing it on purpose, to get more attention. Even if he is not fully aware of it.</p>
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<p>In addition to what the other posters have suggested, maybe you could limit outings (in this late stage of pregnancy) to times when you can have a second adult with you?</p>
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<p>So sorry that happened, that must have been terrifying. So glad you found him!</p>
 

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<p>I don't like the idea of using fear to keep my kid close-there are many things we can use to explain to our littles why we want to be able to see them. Stressing them out over the extremely unlikely stranger danger scenario is not a road I am willing to travel.</p>
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<p>I really love Lynn's post (and I often do!!) and think while you practice her ideas that maybe a leash is in order. </p>
 
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