If you ask the average parent about their day, the answer will likely be a whirlwind of work, carpools, sports practices and a dozen other activities crammed into a single 24-hour period. Today’s kids and adults alike have jam-packed schedules, which often leaves a single family member home alone while others are out. In the case of youngsters, the acceptable safe age for remaining unsupervised varies, but between 10 and 12 is generally suggested. Although parents may leave their children with stern instructions in their absence, a variety of unforeseen issues can arise. Consider the following safety measures when leaving kids in the house by themselves.
For most children, the first solo experience will come after their classes, before parents return home from work. Though this may only amount to a few hours, there’s a lot to consider. Ensure a back-up for kids to enter the home, as lost keys are a common occurrence. Child-rearing experts, Today’s Parent magazine recommends hiding a second key or better yet, replacing the system with a more secure electronic keypad.
Discuss likely situations with kids. For example, an unexpected phone call or knock on the door are two common instances. For safety reasons, carefully outline the best protocol. Rather than accidentally giving away their parents’ absence, kids should ignore the phone unless the caller ID indicates a name they recognize. Visitors at the front door should also be left alone. Doorbell cameras can allow traveling parents to monitor guests anyway. Bonus: these surveillance videos can show exactly when kids arrive home.
Police recommend that children know basic safety measures including knowledge of 911, the location of a first aid kit and how to use a fire extinguisher. A working fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector on all floors will eliminate worry about detection.
Explain if and when a child can invite friends or neighbours over to the house without supervision. Depending on the age, this may be a larger issue if any safety concerns arise in the absence of adults. If a kid is happier with companionship, consider swapping babysitting duties with the friend’s parents.
To avoid any misunderstandings, leave written instructions regarding heating food and permitted activities. Young kids should not be allowed to use the stove, knives or other hazardous equipment. Minimize internet and social media use, since children are vulnerable to strangers on these devices.
Although first-borns can seem like automatic babysitters, it’s important to set boundaries and clearly explain the situation to young charges, who may not see their sibling as an authority figure.
If a non-emergency situation arises, a child should have a list of people to call for advice. Grandparents and neighbours can be a good source for kids seeking advice on permission.
Organizations offer first aid training or home alone programs for kids. These options can provide a huge confidence boast to a youngster and provide peace of mind to a nervous parent.
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