If your kids must be home alone, here are some common-sense guidelines that will give both you and your children peace of mind.
Together with the kids, set up house rules and post them in the kitchen or family room. These might include a chore (fold laundry; unload the dishwasher), a homework schedule, a list of acceptable television programs, and reminders to check that all doors are locked.
If the kids will be coming home directly from school, send them to school with keys that are securely fastened to the inside of their backpacks or someplace similar, and out of sight. Do not let them wear the key around their neck or wrist; this advertises that they will be home alone.
Once the kids are home, make sure they:
- Call you or a designated adult as soon as they get home
- Never answer the doorbell
- Never allow anyone to enter the house they do not know very well
- Never have friends over
- Screen calls
- Do not let a caller know they are home alone
- Do not cook unless you have approved it
- Never enter the house if the door is open or unlocked when they get home
Everyone feels more secure with an established routine and your kids are no exception. Go over the routine with your kids so that they know what you expect when they get home. And then make sure they stick to it.
For instance, after they call you, they might make a snack and sit down to do homework. After homework, they could watch television or play a computer game. Some parents don’t allow children to go online until they are home.
Keep in Touch
You or your spouse should call the kids at least once after they have checked in to make sure all is well. This also reminds the kids that you are going to check in at unannounced times.
Let them know they can call you anytime. You may be at work, but a few minutes to reassure the youngster makes a big difference.
If your plans change even a little (you have to stay late, you stop by the store, you are stuck in traffic), call your child. This way, no one will worry.
It’s crucial to go over daily schedules and transportation. Keep track of when your child is going to a game, an after-school activity, or a friend’s house.
Finally, talk to your children regularly about how they feel about being alone. Your confident 12-year-old may change her mind after a few weeks, or you may find you are not as comfortable as you thought you would be.
As with all things related to childcare, be flexible and be prepared to make other plans. Leaning how to manage on their own is an important part of growing up for all children. Approach it with common sense and sensitivity.