Published April 16, 2010, 12:00 AM

How to talk to your kids about being lost in the woods

Parents can use the story of Nadia Bloom's survival this week in a Florida swamp as a teaching opportunity with their children.

Parents can use the story of Nadia Bloom's survival this week in a Florida swamp as a teaching opportunity with their children. This Child Survival program is presented to students, Scouts and parents by the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force. It includes tips for talking to children about what to do if they are ever lost in the woods or other unfamiliar terrain. The complete guide can be found at ussartf.org/childsurvival.htm

Here are some tips for talking to your child about what to do if are lost:

Help yourself keep calm by singing, whistling or even telling yourself jokes or stories. Do anything it takes to make yourself feel better. Try using your imagination to pretend you are somewhere else that you really enjoy.

You usually do not have to worry about wild animals. They do not like to be near people. If they hear or smell you, they will usually run away.

A good rule is "Answer a Noise with a Noise." If you hear a noise in the woods, make a noise back. If it is an animal it will run away; if it is a searcher then you will be found.

The fear of dark can be easily overcome by memorizing your surroundings during daylight so that you can see with your memory when it gets dark. Nothing changes just because it gets dark. Try practicing in your bedroom.

Make sure your child knows that there is no punishment for being lost. Sometimes, children will hide or run away from searchers in fear of punishment.

Make sure your child knows there can be friendly strangers who will help them when needed, including police officers, firefighters, ambulance personnel and search and rescue teams.

The group has also made a list of survival tips that are easy for children to understand:

RULES FOR SURVIVAL

1. Stay together, do not separate if with a friend or pet

Cuddling up to a large dog or friend will help keep you warm. If with a dog, do not let it run loose. It can help you more by staying close and providing heat and companionship.

2. Stay in one place -- do not wander

This is the most important rule of all. If you wander, we cannot find you.

3. Keep warm

This rule means to keep warm with the clothes you are wearing. Never take any clothes off. Cover up all the exposed skin you can.

4. Find a cozy waiting place, not a hiding place.

A cozy waiting place means a warm place out of the wind and rain but not a place where searchers cannot see you. Under a large tree is a good place.

5. Put out something bright

Make a flag using what you have, but do not take off any clothes to do so. Some suggestions are white paper, money, hair ribbons, a strip from an orange garbage bag, etc. Spell the word "HELP" or "SOS" on the ground using rocks and sticks. Do anything to attract attention.

6. Look bigger for searchers

If possible, your waiting place should be near an open space. When you hear someone coming or a helicopter overhead, move to the middle of the clearing and call.

7. Do not lie on the bare ground

Being in direct contact with the ground for any length of time is dangerous. Build a mattress using available materials such as branches, moss, leaves, etc. This is called a survival bed.

8. Do not eat anything you are not sure of

Do not eat any berries, mushrooms or anything else unless you are 100 percent sure what they are. Being hungry is not too bad of a feeling compared with being violently sick. You can go without food for a long time, but you cannot go without water.

9. Stay away from large rivers and lakes

You must have drinking water to survive, but be careful where you get it. Do not go near any large bodies of water. Drink from a water supply that is smaller than you are, so you cannot fall in. Another source of water can be found on leaves in the form of dew.

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