Educator and child psychologist Tischa Neve calls on parents to pay more attention to the safety of children in a lift.
Tischa: ‘Lifts have a magical attraction for young children. It is fun and unpredictable, the door opens and closes and there are lights in it. And if you ride in a glass lift, you see the perspective change as you rise. Even some parents like that. And as an adult, you don’t think of danger first. But it is good to be aware of the possible dangers and teach children early how to safely use a lift – just like we have to teach them about participating in traffic.’
The most important tip from Liftinstituut is that parents keep children away from the lift door. Tischa: ‘It works best if children learn to use a lift when they are very young. As a parent, you can start teaching them when they are 2.5 or 3 years old. Teach them in a logical and playful manner about typical behaviour regarding a lift. ‘The lift is fun, we have to use it now and then, and when we go in, we press one button together. During the ride we wait, we keep our hands away from the door and walk right through when we exit.’
‘As a parent, it is important that you show them what you are saying.’ Especially when children are a bit older – from 3 or 4 years – it is important that you explain why something is ok or not. ‘We’re going to stand in the middle of the lift, because the doors are closing and our hands could be caught in them.’
In passing on this message, Tischa promotes a factual approach. ‘Don’t speak out of fear, but be clear in explaining to your child. “The lift is fun. But we have to be careful. So we’ll keep to a few rules.” Avoid using the word ‘not’ as much as possible. Rather, tell what you should do. Messages such as “not by the door!” or “look out, don’t do that!” shake children too much. It is more clear to say: “Take two steps back”.’
Children learn best by repetition, as Tischa knows: ‘Remind them of the lift rules every time and demonstrate. Children like that, and young children need it. With older children you can ask questions such as: ‘What do we pay attention to in the lift? And what are our rules?’ If you do that a few times, they’ll retain it more and more. How fast they understand depends on the child. In any case, instruct them from a young age about the rules of the game. If you let a child press all of the buttons in the beginning, then it is harder to unteach that later.’
Alone in the lift?
When are children old enough to use the lift alone? Tischa: ‘It’s just like staying home along, cycling alone or playing outside by themselves. You can’t assign an age to that. It’s different for every child. How well do they follow the rules you have set? And are you confident that your child can do it? Then you can slowly let go.’
Tischa advises parents to look further in the use of the lift than just following the safety rules. ‘Regardless of whether your child is doing everything right, I wouldn’t rush into letting your child use the lift alone. If a lift stops due to a technical or power failure, that can be a very traumatic experience for a child. So the following applies too: tell your child what can happen if a lift stops. If they are a bit older and can read well, if they have a telephone to call someone and you can assume they will keep calm and they know what they have to do, then they can ride the lift alone.’