The upcoming holidays are an opportunity for spending quality time with family and friends, as well as taking a well-earned break after a hard year of work. We’re sure you’ll agree that this is particularly welcome after the year that 2016 has been! But, holidays are also a hotbed for stress and worry. This is partly because your children are home full time, for an extended period. You want them to enjoy their time off as much as you, but it comes with additional safety concerns. We’ve put together 19 tips for you to use, to help your children enjoy their break safely and securely.
Tip #1: Ensure the adults supervising the children communicate properly
It is sadly common for a child to go missing at a theme park or public place, and one spouse turns to the other and says in a panic, ‘I thought you had your eye on her.’ Ensure you and whoever is watching your child or children agree on who is doing what.
Tip #2: Set and communicate rules about public restrooms
Before any trip, set guidelines for children of all ages that they will use the public restrooms only when accompanied by an adult. This is especially important at highway rest stops and large venues. This of course applies to young children but also to a 10-year-old son entering the woman’s room and vice versa with a dad traveling alone with his daughter. Have these conversations before the trip so your children understand the expectations and will not be resistant once you are at the (often crowded) bathrooms.
Tip #3: Prevent your children getting lost
Introduce the concept of ‘check first’.
Say to your children, ‘We are going to be visiting with family/ going sightseeing/etc., and I don’t want to lose any of you. Having said that, you might see something that catches your eye while we are out. Please don’t stop to look or go in a different direction without checking first. That means you walk right up to me (or another designated trusted adult) and tell us what you want to do. We’ll then tell you if it’s okay to go. This will help us avoid getting separated.’
‘Even when we are at the hotel and you want to visit your cousins in their room please don’t go anywhere without checking with us first.’
Tell your child that if they do get lost, the safest person to seek help from is another mom with children. Then, explain to kids step by step what they should do:
- If they can’t find you, they should stay exactly where they are.
- They should then look for a mom with kids and say ‘I am lost, can you please help me?’
- Make sure your children know all the appropriate cell phone numbers (e.g. you, your partner, another designated guardian).
- For young children and children with special needs, place a laminated ID card (make it yourself) with their information on it, as well as two cell phone numbers where you can be reached and stick it in the bottom of their shoe.
- Tell your children that if they get separated from you, they should never ever leave the place they’re at, no matter what anyone says.
Tip #4: Watch out for distracted drivers and pedestrians
- Shopping centre parking lots are busier during the holidays. Keep an eye out for distracted pedestrians and drivers who may not be paying attention to you, especially when backing out of parking spaces.
- If you’re the parent of teens, remind them to be extra alert during this holiday season, when conditions are more challenging on the road, even for experienced drivers.
- Make sure you are not distracted while driving. Commit to keeping your phone down. No text message, selfie or play list is worth the risk.
Tip #5: Make sure every passenger has a seat belt, car seat or booster seat
- Remember to buckle up every ride, every time, whether it’s a long trip to visit family or around the block to the mall.
- When traveling in large groups, all riders in a vehicle need their own seat belt or car seat, even for short rides.
- Check your car seat before holiday travel. Seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so check it before you hit the road.
- Safety in the car goes beyond your little ones. Kids who have outgrown a forward-facing harness seat are not ready for a seat belt or front seat yet. They are safest in a booster seat that enables the adult seat belt to fit properly. Even when children have graduated from booster seats, they should remain in the back seat until they reach the age of 13.
Tip 6: Expect the unexpected on the road
- Have an exit strategy on the road. So now the car is packed, the kids are in the right seat, the seats are installed properly, and you’re on the open road. Nothing can stop you now, right? Wrong. That’s when you hear the all-too-familiar howl for food or a diaper change. When it happens, please don’t worry about making good time. Instead, get off at the next exit and find a safe area to feed or change your child.
- You never know when you have to stop abruptly, so keep hot foods, large gifts and anything that can become a projectile in the trunk.
- If you are headed to a party and plan to drink alcohol, designate a driver or use a car service to make sure you get home safely.
Tip #7: Decorate your Christmas tree with your kids in mind
Kids are curious and will want to play with the ornaments on the tree, so you must prepare. Move the ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks towards the top of the tree. That makes room at the bottom for the ones that are safer for young kids.
Tip #8: Water the tree regularly
Natural trees look beautiful and smell great, but if they’re not watered regularly, needles can dry out and pose a potential fire hazard. Make sure your tree has plenty of water by checking it regularly.
Tip #9: Check the lights
Lights are one of the best parts of holiday decorating. Take a look at the ones on your tree, and in and around your home for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets.
Tip #10: Blow out candles and store matches out of reach
- Keep holiday candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and don’t forget to blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep.
- Make a habit of placing matches and lighters in a safe place, out of children's reach. Avoid novelty lighters or lighters that look like toys.
Tip #11: Keep harmful plants out of reach
Plants can spruce up your holiday decorating, but keep those that may be poisonous out of reach of children or pets. This includes mistletoe berries, holly berry, and Jerusalem cherry.
Tip #12: Find the perfect toy for the right age
Consider your child’s age when purchasing a toy or game this holiday season. It’s worth a second to read the instructions and warning labels to make sure the gift is just right. Before you’ve settled on the perfect toy, check to make sure there aren’t any small parts or other potential choking hazards.
Tip #13: Keep button batteries away from young kids
Keep a special eye on small pieces, including button batteries that may be included in electronic toys. While these kinds of games are great for older kids, they can pose a potential danger for younger, curious siblings.
Tip #14: Don’t forget a helmet for new bikes or other toys
If your child’s heart is set on a bike, skateboard or scooter this holiday season, be sure to include a helmet to keep them safe while they’re having fun.
Tip #15: Prevent spills with pot handles
Kids love to reach, so to prevent burns from hot holiday food or liquid spills, simply use the back burner of your stove and turn pot handles away from the edge.
Tip #16: Avoid placing foods on an open oven door
- Your oven door may not be as strong as you think. To prevent oven tip-overs, place heavy foods or other items on a counter top out of the reach of young children, and not on an open oven door.
- An anti-tip bracket is a valuable tool to prevent oven tip-overs. If you have one, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install and use properly.
Tip #17: Engage older kids in cooking
Teach older kids how to cook safely and responsibly. Teach them never to leave the kitchen while they’re using the stove or oven. Instruct older kids to use oven mitts or potholders to remove items from the oven or stove and teach them how to use a microwave safely.
Tip #18: Use the correct equipment for tasks, and use it correctly
Using a ladder when you put up lights? Choose the correct ladder for the job and double check for a certification mark to ensure your portable ladder complies with applicable standards.
Tip #19: Ensure your smoke alarms are fully functional
Test your smoke alarms monthly to make sure they work, and be sure to install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on every level of your home – especially near sleeping areas.