The seventies and eighties saw an increase in the phenomenon of latch-key kids. In families where both parents work, kids often have to stay alone at home for a few hours every day. This can be scary for a parent to consider. Parents know the dangers in a home and in the environment, and they prefer to keep their kids safe and secure. There are steps that a parent can take, though, to ensure their kids are safe and secure even when no parent is home to supervise.
The first step to ensure your home alone kids are safe and happy is to practice with them their ritual for coming home. Establish a routine for their safety and your peace of mind. If they are walking home from school or the school bus, be available to practice this route with them a few times. Know where there are dogs to avoid and which intersections have more people or cars to be aware of. Walking with your kids can help you to determine if your children are likely to talk to strangers or if they will make a bee-line for the door. Take time to point out dangers they should be aware of at home.
At home, kids should have their own key and not rely on a hide-a-key. While many hide-a-key locations are getting more sophisticated, kids can still be careless and leave a rock or special hiding place exposed to people passing by. Teach your kids to have their key prepared and ready for a quick entry into the home.
Kids at home alone benefit from alarms. Teach your child the necessary code to enter your house, and then teach them to reset the alarm. An alarm at home can provide help if anyone tries to get in, but also adds protection against fires. Let your child practice on the alarm in advance by helping you to secure the house and set the alarm at night. If this becomes a special job for your child, they will quickly master the task and be more likely to do it successfully when you are not home.
Have a call list prepared for your child when they get in the house. Teach your child to call you every evening when they get into the house so you know they are safe. This also sets parameters for your child so they know they must get home quickly because you are expecting them to call. The list should also include emergency numbers for multiple situations. They should know the number for fire emergencies as well as for the ambulance. They should have contact information for neighbors or adults in the area they can call if they have questions or need help.
Discuss with your kids parameters for leaving the house, cooking, and what activities they can do while you are gone. Kids can stay home safely and you can have peace of mind with a little practice and some good established routines.
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