After much planning, saving and organisation, your family will soon be ready to go on a holiday abroad. Your four-year-old is so excited that he has talked about it non-stop for weeks. You want him to have fun but also to understand the rules before setting off, so that he’s safe at all times in a foreign land. Here are four instructions he should follow:
1. Keep close. The most essential safety rule is that he should never wander out of your sight, whether he’s at the hotel, in the pool, on the beach or in town. Make this absolutely clear to him, and repeat it gently but firmly every time you step out of your hotel room. The problem is that his excitement may make him forget common-sense rules. For example, he might have such fun that he walks away from you in order to see something that grabs his attention. Or he might wander off with another child or adult who’s friendly towards him. Children this age always assume “it can’t happen to me” – that’s why you need to reinforce the basic “stay where I can see you at all times” message.
2. Call for attention. Your child will do his best, but there’s always the chance that a distraction can cause you both to shift your attention from each other for a couple of seconds – that’s all it takes to become separated. So the second rule is that if he does lose sight of you, he should cry loudly and shout at the top of his voice. This won’t be easy because he knows you usually reprimand him for making a loud noise in public, and he’ll also feel especially strange creating such a scene in a foreign land. Make it very clear that in this situation, you won’t be annoyed. Explain that this will help you find each other.
3. Don’t try it. The third rule is that he should not do anything on holiday that he knows he isn’t allowed to do at home. For example, he shouldn’t climb in places you would forbid or take risks that he knows you wouldn’t allow back in Singapore. With so many exciting play opportunities and other children around him, it’s vital that you emphasise the need for your child to exert self-control and think of his own physical safety at all times.
4. Be polite. The final safety rule is that he should not laugh or stare at people he sees on holiday. Explain that those in the country you’re visiting may look different, speak in a foreign language and have varied habits and customs, but they still have the same feelings and sensitivities as him.
That’s why he shouldn’t do anything that could upset them, like mimic them (even though he doesn’t mean any harm) or stare intensely at any particular person (even though he’s simply interested in him). Neither should he ask you embarrassing questions when in the company of others (even though he genuinely wants the answer). Point out that he would be upset if someone behaved that way towards him. Remember to brief him about this before you set off, to avoid those potentially awkward moments.
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