Avoid Separation Anxiety

by Marc on November 4, 2009

from aksidenz on Flickr
photo courtesy of sectionz on Flickr

“Oh, God! No! Somebody HELP!”

As we walked up to the train station after our fun day at the State Fair,  we noticed a middle-aged couple frantically yelling & beating on a departing train in a vain effort to stop it. The woman was on the verge of hysterics as she flagged down a motorcycle cop nearby.

“My son is on that train!”

Apparently, the young boy had bounded onto one of the cars just as the doors were closing, and was now traveling solo toward downtown.

I’m sure everything turned out all right, and the bewildered boy and his parents were soon reunited. After all, the police officers and station attendants were able to understand the situation and could quickly respond. But what if this had happened to them in a foreign country, where few people speak English and the rail system is far more crowded and complex?


We used a lot of subways and trains in big cities like Buenos Aires, Bangkok and Tokyo, and we tried to make sure Hannah and Olivia knew what to do if they found themselves on a train without us or left behind at a station. Luckily, we never had to use it, but we did have a plan.

So, if you’re planning to take your little ones to a strange city where you’ll be using public transportation, you might want to have a strategy, too – just in case.


November 4, 2009 Emily @ Maiden Voyage

This happened to my family when I was younger! I can’t remember if it was our family trip in London or DC — I just remember it happened on a subway. My mom took my two younger siblings and I on a trip, and in the hurry of trying to figure out if we could catch a train in time, my brother ended up getting on the train, but the rest of us didn’t. He is the youngest, so he was probably no more than 10 or 12. We realized he had just gotten on and were freaking out. I think we caught the next train and got off at the next stop, hoping he did, too. Thankfully, that was the case. That was before cell phones, so it could have been really bad! Even with families who are really cautious, adventurous young boys can still find their way into trouble :)

November 4, 2009 Marc

So true, Emily! That was the plan we had, BTW – if one (or somehow both) of the girls found themselves alone on the train, they were to get off at the very next stop and wait on the platform for us to arrive on the next train.

November 5, 2009 Victoria

It’s a very good point. Our children are currently quite young, so we strap the youngest in the buggy and the other two have to hold on, but as they get older, the chances of this happening grow. My parents always used to make a plan with us incase we got lost. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

November 11, 2009 Leigh

Losing Lila on a train in a big city is a horrifying thought.

Altho, once in NYC, long before I had a child of my own, I found a little girl about 8 years old who had been separated from her family. I took her to the man at the token booth who contacted the police. It took a while, but she eventually made her way back to her family.

That said, your are 150% correct in saying it’s best to make a plan than to rely on fate. I’m curious to know, though, what sort of plan. Because the possibilities differ depending on the age of the child.

I suppose having Lila memorize our cell number (which is an American number that we use only for emergencies). Or getting of and waiting in one place — although I wonder if she’s be so frantic she’d forget.

Anyone else have personal experience with this? I’d love to hear more.

November 11, 2009 Danielle

At the time it seemed overkill to have such a detailed plan, but seeing the girls respond with we know what we would do having witnessed that family showed me it was a good idea after all. Plus we held hands. A lot. Probably more than they wanted but it was for my comfort as much as for their safety.

November 17, 2009 Kim Spiers

We just finished our one year as you know and always had a strategy, and our kids were 13 and 17 . BUT in a foreign country, where there is no english, it is sound practice, even if it is as simple as you get off next stop and DONT move.

Even when we just travelling in general, the rule was if you found yourself lost, you were to go back to the spot you last were together, and wait. We even had a pecking order that dictated the “eldest had to look for the youngest” so regardless of which combo of us were wandering, you know who was waiting and who was to be looking. A few simple guidelines, provided fewer headaches.

All worked out well…

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