At home alone: a parent's guide
Your child comes home from school at 3:00pm, but you don't get home from work until 5:00pm. They're at home alone for those two hours every weekday. What do they do until you arrive? Most likely, they'll get a snack or talk on the phone. Maybe watch TV. But since you're not there, you worry. Just like the majority of American parents who work and have to leave their children on their own after school every day, you are anxious about your child's safety.
But by following the safeguards listed below, you can help ease some of this worry and take measures that will protect your kids even when you're not around.
What you can do
- Make sure your children are old enough and mature enough to care for themselves. Can your children:
- Be trusted to go straight home after school?
- Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
- Follow rules and instructions well?
- Handle unexpected situations without panicking?
- Stay alone without being afraid?
- Teach them the basic safety rules.
- Know the three "W's": Where your kids are, What they're doing, and Who they're with.
A word about curiosity
Are there things you don't want your children to get into? Take the time to talk to them about the deadly consequences of guns, medicines, power tools, drugs, alcohol, cleaning products, and inhalants. Make sure you keep these items in a secure place out of sight and locked up, if possible.
Teach your "Home Alone" children
- To check in with you or a neighbor immediately after arriving home.
- How to call 9-1-1, or your area's emergency number, or call the operator.
- How to give directions to your home, in case of emergency.
- To never accept gifts or rides from people they don't know well.
- How to use the door and window locks, and the alarm system if you have one.
- To never let anyone into your home without asking your permission.
- To never let a called at the door or on the phone know that they're alone. Teach them to say "Mom/Dad can't come to the phone (or door) right now."
- To carry a house key with them in a safe place (inside a shirt pocket or sock). Don't leave it under the mat or on a ledge outside the house.
- How to escape in case of fire.
- To not go into an empty house or apartment if things don't look right - a broken window, ripped screen, or opened door.
- To let you know about anything that frightens them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
National Crime Prevention Council
1000 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036