I am a single parent who is often at work when my 11-year-old daughter gets home from school. What steps can I take to best ensure her safety during the hours that I’m unable to be there?
There’s no doubt about it — a supervised home is preferable. However, a full workday does not always allow us that opportunity. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help ensure the safety of your children when they are home alone. (The following advice typically applies to children ages 11 and up; children younger than 11 require supervision at all times.)
Children should keep their house keys hidden while walking home. Do not permit your child to experiment with different routes between home and school.
Walking home with friends or a trusted adult is a good idea, and once your child is home, she should check in with a responsible adult to confirm that she has arrived home safely.
Establishing a daily schedule so that your child has something to do during her time at home is very important as well. Boredom often leads to trouble, so you should provide some kind of educational or entertaining activity for your child, such as a puzzle, art materials, or even simple chores. You may also want to keep some healthy snacks around.
Post your contact emergency numbers by the phone and make sure that your child knows what to do and who to reach in case of an emergency.
Do a few mock run-throughs with her for practice. Also, post house safety rules regarding the use of appliances and answering the door and telephone. (Children should not answer the door for strangers and should never indicate that they are home alone over the telephone.)
The tips above should help, but consider looking for ways to provide your child with supervised care, such as a local recreational organization or an after-school program. Some children may have fears about staying home alone and need an adult to answer their questions and concerns. Talk with your child about staying home alone and make sure that she is comfortable with the situation.
Busy workday or not, it is important to spend time with your child each day; your love and attention cannot be replaced.