By Kate Halim
School holidays present a challenge for parents, especially those who work. Arranging childcare and managing work-life balance is difficult and often expensive. When parents are at home, it can be tough to keep children safe and entertained, especially during the rainy season when the weather is more unpredictable and going out is more difficult.
Saturday Sun spoke to Mr. Joseph Adekunle, a safety expert based in Lagos and he listed some tips that would help keep children safe while they are home on holidays.
1. Teach your children not to talk to strangers
It is imperative that parents of toddlers aged two and above teach their children about the dangers of talking to strangers. They should never go anywhere with anyone they are unfamiliar with without first seeking and getting their parent’s permission. For parents who frequently take their toddlers or young children out to shopping malls or restaurants, it is important not to take your eyes off of them as they can wander off or hurt themselves.
2: Let your children know what to do if they get lost
As a parent, you need to teach your children what they should do if they get lost in a crowd. For example, you can tell them to go to another parent they see with children if they suddenly wander away from you in a crowded place. And if you are travelling with more than one child, teach them to stick together at all times. This will prevent any of them from getting lost in the crowd.
3: Your children should know vital personal information about you
Parents must teach their children their personal information in case of an emergency. Your children should know your full name, address and phone number. They also need to know what number to call during an emergency. Ensure they know the name of some trusted family members that they can reach out to for help when the need arises.
4: If you are travelling with your children, ensure that you are security conscious
Don’t leave anything to chance. You need to be wary of strangers who are too nice and the ones who want to know everything about you or your children immediately after meeting them. Don’t divulge sensitive information to strangers on the bus, aeroplane or where you vacationing. Be security conscious at all times.
5: If you are travelling abroad, teach your children about staying safe
If you are travelling outside the country with your children, prepare them to stay safe by teaching them to be aware of their surroundings. On arrival at your holiday destination, check if the windows and doors of your apartment are secured and child-friendly. If there is any concern or you notice something unusual, such as a broken window latch or a broken door knob, notify the reception desk as soon as possible. These checks should persist daily.
6: During vacation, don’t allow your older children to wander off alone
Older children may want to explore the hotel or search for a nearby shop, but under no circumstances should you allow your child to wander off alone. Not only is it easy for them to become lost but they will be very vulnerable. Therefore, always accompany them. If they want to use the pool, stay with them. If they want to play games with other children, stay close and keep an eye on them. Also, remember that adults should always accompany little children to public toilets.
7: For safety reasons, ensure your children wear bright coloured clothes outside your home
If you are spending time somewhere different from where you are based with your children, do something different to keep them safe. Have your children wear a brightly coloured wristband or carry some form of identification with their name, contact number of where you are staying or a mobile number. You should also dress your little ones in brightly coloured clothing. This is to allow you to spot them from a distance and keep them within your sight.
8: Report suspicious-looking people
Parents and children alike should report any suspicious-looking persons lurking around their home, around children’s playground immediately, especially if they are not accompanied by any children.
9: Talk to your children before a family outing
Before going out with your children, make a rule that you must always be able to see them and they must always be able to see you. It may sound simple, but keep reminding them periodically, especially if you think they are getting restless.
10: Use the two giant steps rule
Let your children know that they can never be more than two giant steps away from you. It’s a fun and easy way for young children to remember not to wander away. You should also agree on a meeting place ahead of time for your older children, in case you become separated.
11: Give your children specific instructions before leaving home
Tell your children never to leave the mall or store to go looking for you, no matter what anyone tells them. Remind them that you would never leave until you are reunited.
12: Establish the check first rule with older children
Teach your older children that they must always check first with you before going anywhere in a public place, including another store, play area, or even the restroom. This way, you will know where they are at all times.
13: Don’t use public facilities as a convenient babysitter
For safety reasons, don’t leave your children alone at video arcades, movie theatres, play areas, or other public places. Predators, kidnappers and child traffickers are known for preying on and abducting unsupervised kids.
14: Always bring young children into the restroom with you
Whenever you go out with your little ones, look for well-lit toilets in busy areas, whenever possible. Don’t leave your children with strangers to use the toilet. Let them go with you so that you can keep an eye on them.
15: Public toilets are not safe places for a child to use alone
If you feel comfortable letting your older child (at least nine years old) use a public toilet alone, stand outside the door and call in as your child enters, “I’m right out here if you need me.” It’s a clear signal to anyone who may be hanging around in there that there’s a parent close by. Your child is less of a target if a potential predator thinks there’s a chance he could be caught.
If you think your child is taking too long, open the door and call in, “Is everything okay?” If you don’t get an answer or are unsure, enter the restroom immediately to be sure your child is safe. Informing your child that you will be doing this any time you go out will encourage them to answer you quickly and not linger.
16: Discuss age-appropriate safety issues with your children
Discuss age-appropriate safety issues with your child in a calm, non-fearful manner. Replace the word strangers with tricky people. Let your children know that it isn’t what people look like that makes them unsafe; it’s what they ask a child to do that makes someone bad. Explain this to them so that they can understand that somebody who seems good and nice might be a bad person. Some children leave with a stranger because he seemed nice or she didn’t look like a stranger.
17: Teach your children not to accept gifts from strangers
During this long school holiday, constantly drum it into your children’s ears not to accept gifts from strangers, neighbours and family friends when you are not around. Some sexual predators use this period to groom their potential victims by giving them gifts and warning them not to tell their parents.
18: Create a code word for your children when they are in danger
It is important to create a code word that will alert you when your children are in danger. When they say this word to you, you will know that something is wrong and do something about it. Don’t tell other family members or friends this code word. It should be a secret between you and your children.
19: Children shouldn’t let anyone into your home in your absence
Teach your children not to open the door for anyone in your absence. Some kidnappers use a family friend or neighbour to lure children into their trap. Tell your children to call you if anyone comes around in your absence. That way, you can speak to the person and let them know that they can’t come in or when they should come back.
20: Make your home a safe haven
Don’t expose your children by telling everyone about them and their academic or sports achievements. Keep your children’s issues private and always have their safety in mind while discussing with other parents, family members, neighbours and family friends. Make your home a safe haven for your children by ensuring that they are safe and protected. Let them know that they can trust you with their challenges. Don’t judge them harshly when they make mistakes or criticise them constantly.