As the summer winds down and school is back in session, it’s time to figure out your family’s schedules for the new school year. What will your child or children be doing after school before you get home from work? Will they be home by themselves?
If your children will be on their own for any period of time, either on a regular basis or only once in awhile, it is best to set up a plan and follow some basic tips to make sure your children are safe until you get home.
For children who are entering the house by themselves and will be carrying a key, the primary emphasis should be making sure they are comfortable entering their house.They should know how the locks work and how to disarm the alarm, if necessary.
Also, make sure they know not to advertise the fact that they are home alone. They should only take their key out as they approach the front door and should immediately lock the door behind them after they enter.
The key should also be attached to some kind of keychain that can easily be found and is less likely to just disappear.
It’s very important, especially for younger children, to have someone check in on them. Even if you talk to them on the phone every day once they arrive home, a neighbor or someone else nearby should be aware of the situation and should be able to make sure your child gets home smoothly. They should also have an extra key in case there is ever an issue with your child’s key or there is an emergency.
The other part of awareness is to make sure your child knows how to react in different situations, such as someone ringing the doorbell or someone calling and asking to speak to an adult. They should know not to say you are not home and they are home by themselves.
From the moment your child leaves school, they should know exactly where they are going and what they are doing. This includes walking on the sidewalks of a main road that provides the quickest route home, knowing what to do or who to call when they get home, and what to do if they see anything that seems unusual or makes them uncomfortable. You should have a list of emergency numbers right by the phone or programmed into your child’s cell phone.
Being able to stay home alone, even for a few hours after school, is a big step in growing up, and can teach children responsibility and instill trust in them. Adjustment periods are natural, and it is important to gauge your child’s maturity before taking this step. But as long as all parties are comfortable with the arrangement, leaving your child home alone should not be something you shy away from doing.