According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 60 percent of families have both parents working. In single parent homes, mothers worked in nearly 70 percent of the homes whereas, fathers worked in approximately 80 percent. Although many schools offer after-school programs, not all parents can afford the fees associated with them. These children have to go home alone and are frequently referred to as ‘latchkey’ kids.
These children may be mature enough to care for themselves, but they may still need some direction. Additionally, there are unexpected situations that arise. If something goes wrong, children need to know how to cope. There are things that a parent can do to keep their children safe.
1. Create a list of rules
Creating a list of rules makes it clear to your children which activities are acceptable and which are not. You can post the rules on the refrigerator so that they are easily visible. Make sure you verbally go over the rules with your children; doing so allows them to ask you questions or talk about their concerns.
Rules to consider include:
- Should your child let mom or dad know when he/she arrives home via a text message or phone call?
- Should your child complete his/her homework as soon as he/she arrives home from school?
- Should chores be done directly after your child finishes his/her homework?
- Can your child use the microwave, oven and stove? If so, make sure he/she knows the proper way to use them. If not, be sure to have snacks on hand that do not require cooking (fruit, cheese and crackers, etc.).
- Can friends visit?
- Can your child spend time outside? If so, where is he/she permitted to go?
Some parents choose to create a timeline for their children to follow. This gives the child structure. Children like structure because it makes them feel more secure.
2. Safety concerns
- Inform your child that he/she needs to lock the door upon entering the home.
- When your child is home alone, he/she may have safety concerns. Parents need to go over safety rules related to the kitchen, the telephone, answering the door and what to do in case of an emergency.
- If you have an alarm system in your home, make sure to show your child how to use it.
- Is your child allowed to answer the phone/door? If so, what should he/she tell the caller/visitor? Remind your child never to tell anyone that he/she is home alone.
- Give your child examples of what he/she is to do in a particular situation. For instance, if your child arrives home from school and a window is broken or the door is open he/she needs to know not to go inside. Ask a neighbor that you trust if your child can come to their house in the event of an emergency.
3. In case of emergency
- Make sure your child knows where the flashlights are located in case there is a power outage.
- Have a first aid kit and tell your child where it can be found.
- Your child should know the basics when it comes to first aid. For instance, put pressure on a bleeding wound, how to perform the heimlich maneuver on himself/herself and others, how to treat burns, cuts and scrapes.
- What should your child do if there is a fire or he/she gets hurt or feels sick?
In case of an emergency, your child needs to know:
- How to call emergency services by dialing 9-1-1
- His/Her address and phone number
- Where mom and/or dad works, and the phone number where they can be reached
- The name address and phone number of an emergency contact (neighbor, family friend, aunt/uncle or grandparent)
4. Consider enhanced security features
Some parents choose to add security features to their home. The tools available today can provide a parent peace of mind and make a child feel safer. Video monitoring, alarm notifications and live video feeds via the internet can help parents feel at ease.