OPINION: Leaving Your Child Home Alone
Advice for parents on making sure kids are safe while home alone.
Marlborough Public Schools are out in just a few days and that means many children will be left home alone while mom and dad are a work. When parents leave children home it is important to be sure that they have the skills and maturity to handle being left alone safely. If the plan is to leave your children home unsupervised, the following precautions can ease your worries and help protect your children.
Stranger Safety: When left home alone a child should NEVER answer the door. Pretend that no one is home. In the case of a phone call on a land line, tell your child never to give out his name or tell the caller that he is home alone. If the caller asks for a parent advise your child to say that mom or dad can’t come to the phone right now and take a message. If you do not have caller ID, consider purchasing it so that calls can be identified.
Emergency Numbers: Every emergency number including 911 should be written down in an easily accessible place (perhaps taped to the refrigerator or the wall beside the phone). This means fire, police and poison control. Make sure to include your own number, the neighbors’ numbers and any one else who is trusted and local.
Emergency Plan: Having an emergency plan which is discussed and practiced is extremely important. Talk about and act out possible situations and how to respond to them. For example, what to do in case of a fire, break in or injury. Role playing is highly effective in building automatic responses.
Establish Rules: Rules define boundaries for safety and help your children feel secure. They let your child know what you expect his behavior to be. Make sure your child knows what is (and is not) allowed when you are not home. Agree on rules for snacks, homework, friends, television, etc. These rules must be clear, firm and fair. Thing to discuss include:
• leaving the house
• having friends in
• cooking and use of kitchen equipment
• appropriate snacks and meals
• talking with friends on the phone
• duties to be completed while home alone
Check In: Keep in touch with your child periodically. The phone is your lifeline between you and your child. Tell a trusted neighbor that your child will be home alone and ask her to keep an eye on the house.
Develop overall safety plans for weather, fire, stranger danger, being locked out, losing a house key and what to do in case of accidents. Be sure your child knows where the first aid kit is and how to use the supplies in it.
Having said and done all that you can in order to educate and protect your child, it is important to note that the fundamental responsibility continues to be on your shoulders.
Will you be leaving your child/children home alone this summer? How do you feel about it? Tell us in the comments section.