Monday, 14 December 2015

What if?

Claire Burgess
Early Years Consultancy Manager 

The news provides a constant reminder that the world isn’t always a safe place and that sometimes the worst can happen. But how do we as nannies and parents / carers prepare ourselves and our children for the worst without scaring them?

As much as we would love to shield children from some of the realities of the world around them and let their innocence prevail, we need to ensure that if the worst were to happen we, and the children, would know what to do.

We teach children about risks and dangers every day and how to deal with these. Crossing the road is a dangerous activity – we often remind children of this fact every day and teach them how to cross the road safely. Therefore, we should do exactly the same for what we might deem a more serious threat. Children will feel safer and more secure if they are empowered with knowledge and skills as to how to act in any emergency.

What if there was an emergency at home?

It’s true that we needn’t sit children down and tell them all of the threats that face them out in the world but it is important that they learn, appropriate to their age, what to do if their world were to come under threat. Do the children know what they should do in an emergency situation at home, such as a fire or flood? Do they know how to get out of the house in an emergency and where to go or how to contact the emergency services?

Children may pick up on what is happening in the world from hearing grownups talking or from the news on children’s television and you can use this as a prompt to talk to your children about what they should do in that situation. For younger children you might even turn it into an activity and role play a fire drill at home. There is no need to scare the children, just keep them informed and secure in the knowledge that they would know what to do in a situation like that.

You can talk children through how to dial 999 and there are plenty of videos that can show them how to do this.  Children as young as 2 have been known to make emergency calls when the adults around them have collapsed or been in trouble, so teaching children this important information could save not only their lives but yours as well.  

Make sure the ‘what if’ question is part of day to day conversation, for example when you are warning children about the hot oven talk about not only the risk of burns, but what to do if a fire were to start; when you see an emergency vehicle out and about you can also use this as a prompt “look there is a fire engine, what number do we dial to get a fire engine to come if there was a fire?”.

Emergency kit

Many of our nannies work overseas where there may be other environmental threats such as earthquakes or tornados and many have an evacuation pack by the door or in their car that can be grabbed quickly.  Given the recent events in Cumbria, it could be deemed good practice to prepare this in the UK as well. Again, get the children involved in this, ask them to help you pack the kit and tell them what is in there and why.

Here is a suggestion of some of the items you might want to include in an emergency kit, further examples of what you might want to include can be found here:
  • Money or emergency credit/debit card 
  •  Change of clothes or additional warm clothes, make sure this is replaced as children grow out of items
  • Spare keys
  • Food and water, even just snacks
  • Emergency contact details
  • First aid kit
  • Torch and spare batteries
  • Nappies, wipes and cartons of (in date) formula for babies
Make sure you keep the kit where it can be easily grabbed in a hurry and make sure you put a date in your diary so that items can be regularly replenished and out of date items removed.

Prepare for the worst

One of the things that nannies, parents and carers have to do is to think of the worst case scenarios and make sure we would know what to do. Nannies for example need to be aware of what would happen to the children if the worst were to happen and their parents did not come home one evening. They need to know who would take guardianship over the children and where they would go in the short term or who should be notified? Would the nanny need to have access to the children’s passports and a letter of consent to travel with the children? As a nanny, having a plan in place, which will hopefully never be needed, can ensure you and the family have the peace of mind that they know the children would be looked after and you can ensure you are following the family’s wishes.

No one wants to think about these ‘what ifs’ but being prepared for them, just in case, could save lives, give you a sense of control in an emergency situation by having a plan in place and give everyone, including the children, peace of mind that they know what they need to do.