7 Tips for When Your Child Stays Home Alone

Ways to Keep Your Child Safe When Home Alone

As parents, we never want to leave our children home alone, but sometimes it is unavoidable.  Here are a few basics to keep in mind when your child must be home alone.

1.  Discuss any fears your child might have. Start by talking to your child honestly about how they feel about being home alone. Your child’s fears may be calmed with information about simple safety procedures in the house, such as locked windows and doors. Sometimes it’s the unknown that frightens a child. If your child knows he or she won’t have to answer the door or the telephone, that may be enough to put their mind at ease. That’s why it’s so important to get to the bottom of your child’s fear by discussing what’s behind it.

2.  Establish Rules. Discuss the rules that your child will need to follow when you are not home. Talk about simple things like what snacks to have, doing homework and TV time.  Are any friends allowed in the house while you are gone?  If some are and some aren’t, be precise about which ones.  Do you want your child answering the phone while you are gone?  Is your child allowed to answer the door? Make your rules clear and discuss consequences.

3. List of emergency numbers. Be sure your child knows how to contact the police and fire department in case of emergencies. Have all that type  of information right by every phone in the house and on speed dial. Explain to your child what constitutes an “emergency” as kids have a wide range of emergency-like situations that could crop up, at least in their mind.

4.  Personal information. Make sure your child knows her full name, address, and phone number. Also teach your child your full name, your work phone, your cell phone, and the name of your place of work.  Include the names and phone numbers of other people who are your back-up support, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends.

5.  Walking home alone. Going from school to home is probably the scariest part of this discussion for most parents.  Before you allow your child to walk home alone, go over the route with him or her a few times.  Remind your child never to deviate from the route.  No matter how tempting it may be to visit that little puppy on the next block, if it’s not on the route, it’s not allowed. Walk the route together and pick out safe areas both on the route and near your home where your child can get help if needed. These safe areas could be places such as stores or office buildings, or the house of a trusted friend or family member. Be sure you are perfectly clear about where these safe places are.

6.  Getting into the Home. Decide whether your child will carry a key or if you will have one hidden at the house.  If you hide one, be sure it is somewhere safe where your child won’t be seen when the key is retrieved.  If your child carries a key, be sure someone who is available has a spare. Be sure to teach your child to lock the door immediately upon entering the house. Your child should then immediately call you to let you know he or she has arrived home safely.  You can then ask your child a few questions about his or her day while your child walks through the  house with the phone just reassuring you and himself  that everything appears to be in order.

7.  Be aware of surroundings. Make sure you explain to your child that before they enter the house, be aware of anything out of the ordinary in the driveway, at the front step, or anywhere in the surrounding area. If something doesn’t seem right, your child should go to the safe area in the neighborhood you picked out and call you.  If your child is in the house and spots something that seems odd or out of place (a broken window, a leaking pipe, an overturned chair, a fire alarm going off, etc.) your child should go to the safe area you have agreed on and call you.  Be sure your child understands the difference between calling you and calling the police. The most important thing is that your child is aware of his or her surroundings and that there is a safe area to go to where there are people who can help.

In a perfect world you would always be there for your children when they get home from school.  But, there are times when this isn’t possible.  Preparing your child is important both for your child’s safety and for your sanity.  When you lay out the rules and provide clear instructions, you can minimize issues arising.



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