Choosing an emergency contact for your toddler

In most cases, the person listed as a child’s emergency contact never needs to be called – first, emergencies themselves are rare, but second, in the huge majority of cases where there is an emergency (whether it’s as serious as a medical emergency, or it’s just an unexpected snow day a child needs to be picked up from), there won’t be any problem reaching his parent or guardian. In rare cases, though, when an emergency contact is needed, it’s vitally important to have the right people listed, and while your family might have an obvious choice – your next door neighbor who is also your sister, and who is also a doctor, for example – it’s just as likely that you might not be completely sure who to pick. 

Emergency contacts come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few things that most of the best ones have in common:

  • Someone whose judgment and sense of calm you trust in a crisis
  • Someone who knows about any allergies or medical issues your child might have
  • Someone who knows how to reach you, your partner, and anyone else you’d want called if you can’t be reached
  • Someone your child trusts, who would be able to keep him calm in a stressful situation
  • Someone who isn’t just local, but is also often available. People who travel a lot, forget to charge their phones regularly, or are out of service range for work a lot might not be the ideal choice in this case.

It’s useful to have, and list, at least two emergency contacts. If you’re having a hard time thinking of two people who meet all of the criteria for an ideal emergency contact, some families find it helpful to label one emergency contact as “local,” and another as “family.” This can be useful based on the type of emergency – a local contact may be more useful if you’re unable to pick your child from daycare up on-time for some reason, while it might be the family member who’s more useful to call in case of a medical emergency, even if they’re not immediately nearby.

Once you’ve decided who you feel comfortable listing as your child’s emergency contact, it’s also important to check in with them and make sure they’re comfortable being listed. This means that, in the event of an emergency, they won’t be taken by surprise, and also gives you a chance to run through any important medical information with them, and make sure they have the contact information of anyone they might need to contact in an emergency.

If you don’t have any easy answers

If you’re new to an area and haven’t had the chance to make many new friends you might trust enough for this, if you come from a small family, or if, for some reason, the people you might normally turn to as emergency contacts aren’t currently available, it can be tough to come up with a solution, but it’s still just as important to figure out how to fill in those lines.

In these cases, finding another parent or guardian of a child who understands how important listing a trustworthy emergency contact is may be your best choice. This might mean figuring out if any of your coworkers are also parents, since they might have information on where to find you in an emergency. It might mean reaching out to the daycare center or other authority asking for your emergency contact form, explaining the situation, and asking if they can put you in touch with another parent who might understand what you’re dealing with, or it might mean joining a community organization, parent group, or church where you might meet other families who could help you out.

In all likelihood, your toddler’s emergency contact will never get that call. On the slim chance that they do, though, you’ll know that you’ve thought it through and chosen the exact right person for the job.

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