The holiday season is a time of year when parents need to be extra vigilant. From hurried trips to the mall for food, entertainment and shopping, to crowded airports and bus terminals, the holidays are an enjoyable time for families but can be a very stressful and dangerous time for parents.
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Communications officer of Malvern SAPS, W/O Radhika Marimuthu, said that it can be nerve-wracking to keep track of children irrespective of their ages or whether in crowds or groups. She has advised the public to adhere to the following hints to make the festive season a safer and enjoyable one:
- Brief your children before going out.
- Remember to use the ‘two giant steps’ rule where your children must never be more than two giant steps away from you. Make it a fun and easy way for your children to remember not to drift away.
- Tell children that if they ever become separated from you, they should look for a ‘safe stranger’ for help. These include a mum with children, a person at a till, the security at the mall or a police officer in uniform. With older children, agree on a ‘designated meeting area’ in your planning, in case you become separated.
- Tell your children to never leave the mall or store to go looking for you, despite what anyone tells them. Always tell them that you would never leave until you are reunited at the mall and that you will always be looking for them.
- Parents are urged to dress their children in bright colours to make him easy to spot in a crowd.
- At airports, bus terminuses or shopping malls, parents can use a cute harness for toddlers who are prone to running off. This may seem over the top but your child’s safety is of the utmost importance.
- Teach the children to always check first with you before going anywhere in a public place, mall, beach, play area, or even the restroom.
- Parents should not treat public facilities as a babysitting zone. Do not under any circumstances leave your children alone at video arcades, movie theatres, play areas, or other public places. Predators look for unsupervised kids here.
- Always take young children into the restroom with you. Look for well-lit restrooms in areas of high traffic volumes in busy places.
- If children go into a restroom alone. If you feel comfortable letting your older child (at least nine-years-old) use the men’s room alone, stand outside the door and call in as your child enters, ‘I’m right out here if you need me’. It’s a sign to anyone who may be hanging around in there that there’s a parent close by.
- 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.
- Children have been known to leave with a stranger because ‘he seemed nice’ or ‘she didn’t look like a stranger’. So always inform your children to never do this.
- Make sure that your child knows your cellphone number, address or that of a family member.