There are many, many things that you can teach your children about safety and survival in the wilderness. But the most important thing to teach your children if they ever get lost is to stay put. Most of like to think our children would never find themselves in a situation where they are lost and alone. We (as brilliant parents) simply won’t allow that to happen! But then again anyone who is a parent also realizes how quickly things can happen with children. A moment of inattention and everything can change.
Hopefully you are well prepared when taking children outdoors and if anything goes wrong, you will be there to deal with it. However, good preparation takes account of planning for the worst case scenario and this includes the possibility that your child may get lost and be alone. Ideally your child will have some survival equipment attached to their body (back pack or belt bag) and know how to use the contents. Failing that at the very least your child should have adequate clothing, a whistle and water on them when you go in the great outdoors.
Regardless of age all children should be taught to stay where they are when they realize they are lost. Teach your children to STOP & STAY.
This cannot be emphasized enough and younger children need to be repeatedly reminded. Up to about the age of three, children have a tendency to walk around aimlessly and get easily distracted by something that catches their attention. From about the age of four, there will be more realization that they are actually lost and, both fear and a tendency to try and get back becomes stronger. From age seven to early teens children face the same fear and depression as adults due but with a more acute sense of helplessness.
Search and rescue figures suggest that most children are found within a certain distance from the last point of contact. So your two year old will most likely be found within 500 meters of the last point of contact. Your five year old may have strayed as far as 1.5 kilometers. The four to six year olds are often more aware of stranger danger and may not respond to search and rescue teams. This is why teaching your children a safety word is also a good idea. The idea of stranger danger combined with the worry of being in trouble can effectively mean that the child will not respond to the people searching for it. Teach your children a safety word (anything from chocolate cake to rosebud) and explain that if they hear this word, the person using it is a good person and it is okay for the child to respond. (It might also help to tell them if they ever need to use the safety word they will not be in any trouble for whatever happened).
Don’t let a lovely family bush walk turn into your worst nightmare, be prepared and make sure your children are too! Remember teach your children to stay in the nearest safe place if they are ever separated from you.