Your ten-year-old comes home from school at 3:00, but you don't get home from work until 5:00. He's at home alone for those two hours every weekday. What does he do until your arrive?
Most likely, he gets a snack or talks on the phone. Maybe he watches TV, but since you're not there, you worry. Just like the majority of American parents who work and have to leave their children on their own after school everyday, you are anxious about your child's safety. But by following the safeguards listed below, you can help ease some of this worry and take measures that will protect your kids even when you're not around.
Are They Ready?
Can your children. . .
- Be trusted to go straight home after school?
- Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
- Follow rules and instructions well?
- Handle unexpected situations without panicking?
- Stay alone without being afraid?
What You Can Do
Make sure your children are old enough and mature enough to care for themselves.
Teach them basic safety rules.
Know the three "W's": Where your kids are, What they're doing, and Who they're with. (Don't forget to check on state law about the age at which children can be left at home alone.)
Curiosity...Are there things you don't want your children to get into? Take the time to talk to them about the deadly consequences of guns, medicines, power tools, drugs, alcohol, cleaning products, and inhalants. Make sure you keep these items in a secure place out of sight and locked up, if possible.
Hang emergency numbers by the phone and teach your children to use them. Teach Your "Home Alone" Children To check in with you or a neighbor immediately after arriving home.
- How to call 9-1-1, or your area's emergency number, or call the operator.
- How to give directions to your home, in case of emergency.
- To never accept gifts or rides from people they don't know well.
- How to use the door and window locks, and the alarm system if you have one.
- To never let anyone into your home without asking your permission.
- To never let a caller at the door or on the phone know that they're alone. Teach them to say "Mom can't come to the phone (or door) right now."
- To carry a house key with them in a safe place (inside a shirt pocket or sock). Don't leave it under a mat or on a ledge outside the house.
- How to escape in case of fire.
- To not go into an empty house or apartment if things don't look right - a broken window, ripped screen, or opened door.
- To let you know about anything that frightens them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
Take a Stand
Work with schools, religious institutions, libraries, recreational and community centers, and local youth organizations to create programs that give children ages 10 and older a place to go and something to do after school - a "homework haven," with sports, crafts, classes and tutoring.
Don't forget that kids of this age can also get involved in their communities. Help them design and carry out an improvement project!
Ask your workplace to sponsor a Survival Skills class for employees' children. You can kick it off with a parent breakfast or lunch. Ask your community to develop a homework hotline latchkey kids can call for help or just to talk.
Join or start a McGruff House or other block parent program in your community to offer children help in emergencies or frightening situations. A McGruff House is a reliable source of help for children in emergency or frightening situations. For information call 801-486-8691.