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My whole world slowed down to a screeching halt and spun past me in slow motion as I screamed in sheer panic “WHERE ARE YOU JENN?!?!” I was in my own 900 square foot home and yet somehow could not find my 3-year-old daughter.
Really. How does that even happen?
The following minutes on the phone with my husband trying to figure out where she could possibly be, knowing she couldn’t unlock the front door and having looked presumably everywhere for her, I was shaking uncontrollably in terror, frustration, and fear. I knew she had to be in the house and was honestly afraid that she had gotten hurt some way some how.
My husband threw open the door after a long day at work to now find our daughter crying and me sitting in the living room chair showered in both relief and anger. In that moment, all I needed was an entire box of Kleenex® to mop up the big emotions I was feeling and gently wipe away the tears of my daughter.
Those seconds, minutes, and even hours after finally finding her (hiding and unwilling to respond to my pleas and tears of desperation), that it was apparent to us as parents that this game of “catch me if you can” had to be nipped in the bud before she suddenly found herself lost and alone in public.
So we sat down and had a talk.
How to use Finding Dory to discuss getting lost in public with a child
It’s always a little bit easier to frame scary situations for kids by using movies they love. In fact, it’s a great way to enjoy a family movie, and also intentionally use those teachable moments to contain big emotions that both parents and children face when talking about tough topics.
Prepare a Dory family movie night
Obviously, the first thing that must be done is to get the movie itself. But the second most important part of preparing to enjoy and learn from the movie together is to stock up on Kleenex® Finding Dory Tissue Box Designs.
We stopped by our local BJ’s Wholesale Club and got the motherload of tissues. While Finding Dory is a cute movie, there really are some big emotions that go along with it for small eyes. And when we sat discussing what it would be like to be Dory and get lost and not be able to find mom and dad, tears started rolling.
The other perk is that currently if you buy any Kleenex packaging, you can get a free movie rental from Fandango.
Grab your free “parents’ guide to behaviors” download.
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Look for the the real-life “Hanks”
It’s important our kids know that it’s ok to ask for help. But even more importantly it’s imperative that they know who the right people are that can get them the help they need.
After watching the movie we can talk about how Hank was an important part of Dory finding her family. So we can start asking who the Hanks are when out in public and brainstorm the people that are the helpers in society or are most likely to be someone that can be trusted.
This could include anyone in a uniform (both officers and even just store employees), families or parents with kids, or someone behind a desk.
Remind your kids to “follow the shells” & Listen for “whale calls”
In the movie, Dory communicates with her friend via whale calls and she also remembers that her parents set up shells for her to follow to make it back home. Both bring up ways to help your kids feel more empowered if they get in a sticky situation in public.
For our family, we have a family whistle and have for many years. (I even used it with my husband before we ever had kids). Instead of screaming in the store to find my child or spouse, I can whistle the tune and it’s almost like a game of Marco Polo. We always seem to find each other. It’s the same little tune every single time so over the years it’s common and familiar.
And like the shells, have a meetup location when you go in public. When you walk in a store, look for a place that you can tell your kids “if we get separated, come to this location”. Most importantly though, it’s crucial they understand that they never leave the store, park, or any location without mom or dad.
And that mom and dad will always be looking for them.
Help them notice places with intercoms
At one point in the movie Dory remembers some of the facts that were being repeated over and over on the loud speakers. Remind your kids that if they hear something come overhead in a loud voice that there is someone who can talk on those speakers to help them find mom and dad.
So just like looking for the the Hanks, they can understand that in many public places, announcements can be made to help them find the family again.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!