We’re halfway through 2021 and it’s been a tough year already with various challenges in the fight to protect children. Every year children face a range of challenges in a world that is combating a pandemic, violence, racism, physical and online abuse which can lead to child disappearances.

With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted across Europe, this summer gives us more opportunities to travel and spend time outdoors. There are few worse experiences than losing sight of a child in a public place, such as an airport, a shopping centre or a beach.

Whatever your plans this summer, whether you are travelling abroad or spending time with your family circle, children need to be protected. Regardless of whether you are family or an individual, you need to be able to ignite a conversation with children, re-assure them and remind them how to stay safe. Therefore, Missing Children Europe prepared 10 summer tips outlining simple steps that you can take to protect children this summer and onwards.

Tip 1. Talk to Them

Establish ongoing and honest communication with your children to encourage them to speak freely about their desires, problems and experiences with challenging emotions such as shame, embarrassment, anger and fear. Listen actively and respond positively to their openness, especially regarding difficult topics. Teach your child to recognize dangerous situations without arousing fear in them. If your child can view conversations with you as a space in which they feel safe and heard, they are much more like to be open when you ask them where they are going and with whom.

Tip 2. Trust your children and teach them to trust themselves

Intuition acts as an embodied indication that something feels unsafe. It can present in different forms, e.g. as a shiver or hair prickling along the arms or a persistent, worrying thought. Talk to children about these feelings and teach them that they are meaningful. In response, they should pause and think about their safest choices, leave a situation and ask a trusted adult for help if they are uncomfortable or feeling unsafe. Explain to them that their body is their own, that’s it’s okay to say ‘no’ and that others should respect those boundaries.

Tip 3. Make sure your child knows basic safety information

If your child gets lost, make sure that they have enough information to ask for help. Does your child know their full name? Address? Your phone number? An emergency number (112) or the hotline for missing children’s number (116 000)? For smaller children, you can write important phone numbers on their backpacks/labels/bracelets and teach them to ask an adult (preferably a policeman, security guard or a shop assistant) to call the number if they get lost.

Tip 4. Take care of their online safety

Educating and empowering your children about online dangers is one of the biggest investments we can make as parents and guardians. It takes time and energy to protect children from potential dangers, but it is a commitment worth taking on. While the internet is a great way for children and young people to access information, play and stay in touch with their friends, it can also bring risks. Now more than ever it’s important to talk to your child about staying safe online and about the apps and sites they’re using. Looking for more tips? Visit Better Internet for Kids.

Tip 5. Establish rules and boundaries

Going to a new place can be exciting and stressful for the entire family. Make sure you establish baseline rules and boundaries with your child before leaving on holiday.

This also applies to adults. Parents usually need permission from one another to move abroad with a child. Failing to obtain the necessary permission constitutes child abduction, even if you have shared parental authority. Make concrete arrangements before leaving and check if specific authorisation forms and procedures exist in your country.

Tip 6. Dress your child in bright colours

Bright and colourful clothes make it easier to keep an eye on your children in crowded places or from a distance. This also means being sure to memorize what the child is wearing. If you’ll be in a crowd, do the same! Make yourself easily visible so that if your children lose sight of you, they can find you again.

Tip 7. Always choose a go-to spot

When you’re out and about, agree on an easy to remember meeting spot in case you lose each other. Also issue reminders about the rules you established before the trip about where your child can go and what they should do if they get lost.

Tip 8. Outline a plan, just in case

In the case that you do lose your child, check the last place you saw them, a place where you think they might go/the meeting spot. Keep an eye on your cell phone in case they (or an adult they have asked for help) call you. If you still can’t find your child, contact the 116 000 hotline for missing children for information and support.

Tip 9. Help find missing children by downloading an app

NotFound: Thousands of children go missing every year across Europe. Thanks to the NotFound application, you can make a difference with minimal effort. Are you a website owner? Instal NotFound and a picture of a missing child will automatically get published on a ‘page not found’ of your website turning useless and dreaded 404 error pages into something worthwhile.

ChildRescue: Are you located in Belgium or Greece? You can help find missing children in your location by downloading the ChildRescue app onto your smartphone. Users can provide vital feedback relating to a missing child case when an alert is issued in their location. Missing children orgnisations interested in using the ChildRescue platform and app can contact us directly.

Tip 10. Donate to support116 000 hotlines

Help us raise funds to continue the support and coordination of the European network of 116 000 hotlines and the implementation of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM), an essential tool to guarantee quality service for all hotlines across Europe.

Each donation of 25 EUR will help us maintain a monthly CRM license for one hotline. This allows us to keep track of details and updates on missing children cases and ease cross-border cooperation between hotlines operating in different countries, to better prevent and efficiently find missing children whilst support their families.

Other language resources developed by Missing Children Europe member organisations

Prevention Tips – click here

Podcast on the prevention tips on child disappearance – FR / NL

Partying safely. How to talk about it with a teenager? – Read the article

Child Safety: Care Instructions – click here

Summer Security Tips – click here

Summer Tips – click here

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