ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Tips to keep your children entertained and safe during the winter holidays

There are some basic and practical safety precautions parents can share with their children.

For children, 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 their children are safe.

There are some basic and practical safety precautions parents can share with their children, regardless of whether they are left with a caregiver or 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,” said Stuart Clarkson, managing executive 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, such as 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 is 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, Clarkson 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 shortcuts 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 police or security officers 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 children.

If your child is going to a movie or to meet friends, Clarkson said 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 on tightly to their handbags, wallets and cellphones. 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.”

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Charmaine Slater
Senior journalist

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