Ah, the empty house. Only, it’s really not all that it’s cracked up to be. School days mean plenty of kids are heading home on their own to manage by themselves until mom or dad is around. More than 11 million kids — 20 percent — are left home alone after school in the U.S. every weekday, according to the Afterschool Alliance nonprofit. And while kids may be cognitively ready starting at age 12, Safe Kids Worldwide says maturity level matters most. If you feel your child is ready to stay home alone, go over these tips with him first.
Here are 10 home safety tips that will keep your child safe and feeling able to handle pretty much anything.
- A Call Away: It’s so easy to get ahold of each other, that alone eases the mind. But your child should know how to call 9-1-1 in case of an emergency. Also, leave a contact sheet posted at home with important people should he want to talk. Grandma, grandpa, a neighbor, etc.
- Make Sure Internet Controls are In Place: Keep your kids safe by setting up various parental controls. The website Internet Matters can help. Discuss tech household rules with your kids so they know your expectations.
- First Aid, Should They Need: Of course, if your child gets hurt somehow while you’re not home, he should know where your first aid supplies are and basic care for himself.
- The Front Door: Plenty of people have security cameras installed at front doors today. If you don’t, be sure your child understands not to open the door for strangers.
- Security Systems: Make sure your child knows how to use yours if you have one.
- Secure Dangerous Items: The Red Cross suggests removing altogether or locking away items such as guns, knives, hand tools, poisons, pesticides, lighter fluids, etc.
- Have an Emergency Plan: Before you allow your child to stay home alone, decide together what he should do in the event of an emergency. Write down the plan together.
- Instill Confidence: When discussing staying home alone with your kid, do it in a confident manner, letting him know he can do this. If he’s at all reluctant about it, don’t do it.
- Ease In: You have everything in place and you both feel secure about leaving your child home alone. Start slowly by leaving them alone for 30 minutes at first and increasing in small increments.
- The Key: Give your child his own key (on a key chain) and watch him open/lock the door.
SOURCE: The American Red Cross