The summer holidays are a time to relaxa and soak up some vitamin D. But for parents with young children, it isn't so easy to put your feet up, especially in crowded spaces such as packed beaches – among the greatest fears of any parent is losing your child.
Whether at the seaside or an unfamiliar city, there are many distractions that can lead children to wander off. Without knowing exactly where they are, they can quickly become disorientated and lost. At such times, a parent's thoughts can quickly settle on the worst-case scenario.
Around 900 children go missing in Belgium every year; knowing what precautions and actions to take, especially during the holiday season, can help avoid this nightmare from happening to you.
One recommended measure is anti-disappearance bracelets. These can be obtained from tourist offices, volunteer helpers and medical centres. These labelled bracelets can be filled in with a child's name and phone number of a responsible adult. The IKWV (the inter-municipal rescue service in West Flanders) distributes nearly 75,000 each year. It also makes sense to have your child memorise their parent’s phone number.
Another good idea is to give your child clear instructions and boundaries. Make clear the limits within which they have the right to play if there are a lot of people on the beach. Also, remind them not to talk to strangers and not to walk away with just anyone.
Set a clear meeting point in case of separation, for example, your sun umbrella or the nearest lifeguard station. Make sure that the determined location is visible from a distance.
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You and your child will find it easier to find your way around if your swimsuits, sun hats and other clothes are colourful. This will help you spot each other in a crowd.
If all else fails and you do not find your child, go to the first aid station or lifeguard with a recent photo (ideally taken that day in the outfit they were wearing when they disappeared).