Six Ways to Keep Your Child from Wandering OffTips to Identify Triggers and Precautions to Take

As parents and caregivers, we’ve all had that moment of panic when we’re at the shopping mall or grocery store and suddenly realize our child has wandered off. This type of behavior is common in all young children. However, wandering (also called elopement) is particularly common in children with developmental disabilities, including autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.   

If you’re worried about your child wandering off and possibly getting hurt, try implementing the six tips below from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Wandering Triggers  

Something may catch your child’s eye such as a playground and cause them to head over to investigate it. Or they may be trying to get away from something that scares them such as a dog barking. Either way, pay attention to what triggers your child’s elopement tendencies.  

Secure Your Home  

Keep all doors that lead outside locked. Consider installing a home security alarm system or a battery-operated door alarm that goes off if your child opens a door. You could also put hook and eye locks on your doors, but make sure they are high enough so that your child can’t reach them.   

Set Guidelines for Going Out 

When you’re going to the store, park, or anywhere outside, be clear about what your child can expect. This includes giving them a timeline and rules that should be followed. If you have other family members or friends coming along, let them know what the plan is as well. And always have your child supervised by a trusted adult.  

Tracking Device and Identification 

Consider talking to your local law enforcement agency about getting a tracking device via Project Lifesaver, SafetyNet Tracking or another service. You can also have your child wear a medical alert tag or write their name and contact information inside their jacket or shirt.  

Ensure Restful Sleep  

It may be the case that your child isn’t getting the sleep they need. This can lead to increased hyperactivity and stress levels that could contribute to your child’s wandering tendencies. If you think your child is having problems sleeping, talk to your pediatrician.  

Water and Swimming Safety  

Have your child learn how to swim at the local YMCA or parks and recreation facility. Also come up with a checklist of nearby ponds, lakes or pools to share with family members in case your child wanders off.   

Build a Safe Network 

It’s always a good idea to let your friends, family, neighbors and any first responders know if you have a child who tends to wander. Be sure to provide them with information and a photo that helps identify your child and instructions on what to do if they find them. Having a plan in place will allow you to respond quickly and help keep your child safe.