The long mid-year school holiday is a welcome break, but for many parents - who have to work throughout - it’s a stressful period of constantly wondering if your child is safe.
There are some basic and practical safety precautions parents can share with their children regardless of whether they are left with a caregiver, domestic staff or stay at home by themselves.
“It is important that they know to always keep entry and exit doors locked, and that no-one is to enter the home without your permission,” says Ivan Govender, district manager of KwaZulu-Natal for Fidelity ADT.
“If you have a home security system installed teach them how to activate and de-activate it and how and when to use other security devices like panic buttons.”
He said it’s a good idea to have a list of emergency contacts – including the numbers for the police, the local neighbourhood watch, your security company and a trusted neighbour - near the telephone and to explain to them when and how it must be used. These numbers should also be programmed on your child’s cellphone.
The cold weather means that older children are often confined indoors and that boredom quickly sets in. The usual solution: wanting to visit a friend who lives in the neighbourhood. If you are not able to drop your child off or arrange a lift for them, Govender suggests that you walk the route with them before they have to do it on their own.
“Explain that it is better to take a longer route down familiar streets where there is more activity than taking short-cuts across fields or through deserted areas or roads they’re not used to.
“On the day, they must call you to let you know that they are about to leave home and again once they have arrived at their friend’s. If while walking they find themselves in an unfamiliar street, they should look out for a police or security officer and never talk to or take advice or a ride from a stranger.”
Shopping malls are far busier during the holidays and a popular hang-out for older kids. If your child is going to a movie or to meet friends, Govender says they must be encouraged to look after their belongings and to look out for each other.
“Busy malls present a prime opportunity for pick-pockets. They need to hold tightly onto their handbags, wallets and cell phones. It is also important that if they become separated from their friends they head straight to the mall information desk or to security and try to track them down from there.”