It’s finally summer! We’ve all been looking forward to holidays and spending time with family and loved ones. But watch out! Amidst the temptations of sun, sea and sand, holidays with children, especially abroad or by the seaside, can quickly become a stressful situation. Did you know that 1,703 children were lost at the Belgian coast alone in 2016 (luckily, this number decreased in 2017)? And one in six British parents have lost their child on holiday². The average time lost was 4 minutes and swimming pools are the most common location for children to wander off from. But the panic before they are found is something no one wants to experience. This is why we have made a list of 10 tips to make sure your holidays are less stressful for both yourselves and the kids.
- Keep an open and age-appropriate communication with your children
Encourage your children to talk to you, tell you who they are playing with, and to always ask you if it’s ok to go somewhere.
- Teach your children what is okay and what is not.
Teach children that their body belongs to them and that it’s ok to say “no” if someone suggests something they don’t feel comfortable with and explain the difference between a “good secret” and a “bad secret”.
- Make agreements and rules
When you’re out and about, agree on an easy to remember “go-to spot” in case you lose each other and don’t forget to go over the rules about where they can go. Does he/she know in which circumstances they can approach adults for help? Or who a trustworthy person or authority is?
- Teach your child to memorise basic information
Does your child know his/ her full name and address? Does he/ she know the hotline number? Does he/she know your number?
- High visibility can be very helpful
Bright and colourful clothes make it easier to keep an eye on your children in crowded places.
- Bracelets with your phone number can be very useful for young children
Teach them that if they get lost, they should go to a police officer or other parent, show them the bracelet and ask them to call you.
- Save the 116 000 hotline in your phone in case your child goes missing
116 000 is the hotline number available across Europe to children and parents affected by a child disappearance. This network of hotlines is available through the same 116 000 number in 31 countries in English as well as in the national languages. The hotline provides professional, social, psychological, administrative and legal support 24/7 and free of charge.
- Make arrangements with the other parent of your child(ren) before travelling to another country
Parental child abductions often occur during the holiday season. One parent travels abroad with his/her child and decides to stay in the other country. As a parent, you need permission from the other parent to move to another country with your child. If not, moving to another country with your child is considered a child abduction, even if you have shared parental authority. Ideally, make concrete arrangements with the other parent to settle the details of your holiday before leaving. In some countries (such as Belgium), specific authorization forms exist.
- Be ready and know what to do if your child has gone missing
Go to the last place you saw him/her or to a place where he/she might think to go. Younger children may have been attracted by balloons, water, music, etc.. If you still can’t find them after, contact the local police so that they can immediately start the investigation and contact the 116 000 European hotline for missing children for information, help or support.
- Every little bit helps: download the not found application
Launched by Missing Children Europe, the notfound.org project replaces a website’s ‘404 error page’ with posters of national missing children. Anyone with a website can download the app and help find them.
We hope you all have safe and fun summers.
The original version of the text can be found here.