Leaving a child home alone for the first time can be an anxiety-inducing experience for both the parents and the child. In order for everyone to enjoy a little confidence and peace of mind, it is important to go over essential rules and procedures with your child ahead of time.
Follow this list to ensure that your child will remain safe while you’re out of the house:
- Contact numbers – Talk to your child about the right numbers to call for different scenarios. For example, when should they call you? When should they call 911? It is good if they know the numbers themselves, but you can also post a list in an easy-to-find location like on the refrigerator, or next to the telephone. If they use a mobile phone, you can also programme in the numbers to the contact list.
- Alarm system operation – If they will be going in and out while you are away, they will need to know how to operate your alarm system. Teach them how to arm and disarm the system, as well as what to do in case there is a false alarm.
- Trustworthy neighbours – Do you know people in the neighbourhood that your child could go to for help in case of an emergency? If so, make sure your child knows where to go and who to look for.
- Stranger policy – Remind them not to unlock the door for strangers while they are home alone. Also, reassure them that they can call you whenever there is a situation that they do not know how to respond to.
- Phone answering policy – Teach your child good telephone answering skills and etiquette. This is not just about politeness – it’s also about safety. If a caller asks for an adult who is not there, your child should not reveal that they are home alone. Instead, they could respond with something like “I am sorry, he can’t come to the phone right now. May I take a message?”
- Kitchen safety – If they are old enough to use things in the kitchen like the oven or sharp knives, make sure that they understand proper safe usage.
- Scheduled check-in – Plan a designated time to talk on the phone to see how the day is going. Your child can call you or you can call them. Either way, this is a great way to maintain contact even when you are not physically there.
- Basic rules – Depending on your child’s age and maturity, you might want to make some areas of the house or activities off-limits if they are dangerous. Along the same lines, you might want to lock up hazardous items like cleaning chemicals, firearms, alcohol, or medications.