Here’s why an adult should never pick up a child he/she doesn’t know to comfort them.

A lost child in a store was discovered by a middle-aged man; the man wondered if he should pick up the young child to comfort her while they waited for the child’s mother. I read this one day in a “Dear Amy” column.

The man said the girl was distraught as they waited at the help desk, and he contemplated picking up the child. He then asked Dear Amy what he should have done.

If you encounter a lost child in a store, take him or her to the nearest information desk or store employee and let them take over.

This way you won’t have to worry about being accused of trying to abduct the child, or causing the child distress by invading their personal space.

You may not readily spot an employee. But there are always employees at the checkout stations.

Take the lost child there if you can’t find a free employee or store help desk nearby.

If you want to stick around until the parent arrives, that’s fine. But do not touch the child, as you just do not know what kind of self-set boundaries that little individual has; you should respect that and refrain from physical contact.

Think of it this way: If YOU were lost, would you want someone 8-foot-tall person picking you up?

  • Imagine you’re lost after sightseeing a bit in an unfamiliar town.
  • You can’t regain your sense of direction.
  • Someone 8-feet tall comes along and offers to help out.
  • Suddenly they swoop you into their arms.
  • Do you feel comforted as a result?

So why, then, assume a young child wants to be picked up by a stranger?

Instead, use words to assure the young child her mother is coming soon.

If you still feel compelled to pick them up, ask yourself how you’d deal with this compulsion if you had tendonitis in both shoulders that made it painful to pick things up that weighed more than 30 pounds.

“Although your natural reaction would be to pick up any child who needs comforting, you need to first consider the circumstances,” says Carole Lieberman, MD, a forensic psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets.

“For example, if their parent is nearby, it would be better to draw the parent’s attention to their child’s discomfort.

“Or, if you’re a man, and the child is a little girl, who may mistake your kindness for improper intentions, then it is best to enlist a woman to comfort her.

“Of course, if the child is injured or in physical danger, then you should follow your instincts and reach out to comfort them.”

Dr. Lieberman analyzes the psychological impact of world events, as a guest and/or host on all major media outlets. Her appearances include “Larry King Live,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “Entertainment Tonight,” CNN and Fox News.