When both parents work, sometimes they have no option but to give the child a house key or leave a key with the neighbors. When the child gets home from school, they let themselves into the house and they stay at home until parents return.
Children below the age of 8 should not be left to look after themselves. However, even with older children, parents must decide whether their child is mature and responsible enough to stay alone.
Many children are capable of taking care of themselves if parents teach them precautions they should take.
Precautions to Follow
- As soon as the child returns from school he should contact parents, neighbors or relatives and inform them that he has reached.
- Children should never enter the house if they see an open door or broken windows.
- Parents should ask neighbors to check on the children from time to time.
- Children should be taught never to open the door to strangers. Make sure there is a peephole in the door or tell the children to look through the window to check before opening the door. If in doubt, tell them not to open it.
- Encourage children to tell you about any unusual incidents involving strangers.
- Parents should teach children what to do and whom to contact in an emergency. Have important numbers clearly written down near the phone.
- Children should know how to contact their parents at all times. Parents need to keep their phones with them and be vigilant to answer the phone during the time period that the child is home alone. Even if you are in a meeting, make sure the phone is on vibrate and keep it on you.
- Kids could turn on the TV or music system to give the impression that there are others at home.
- Parents should take time to teach kids how to operate household appliances as well as safety measures regarding electricity, fire etc.
Unfortunately, many incidents of misbehavior happen not with strangers but with known people. Therefore, children need to be cautious even with people that are known to the family. If a neighbour keeps wanting to visit, the child should tell them they will call the parents and check with them first. Children may have difficulty refusing something to a known person, however, it is important to teach your child this skill if they are to be home alone.