Are you a responsible parent? Do you leave your children home alone? Do they know how to deal with strangers who come to the door or call on the phone? Do your children know how to handle emergencies? These are questions you should ask yourself if you have children.
Unfortunately, cases involving irresponsible adults leaving children by themselves in homes and cars are quite common. Sometimes they end with the children being removed by authorities, and sometimes they end in tragedy.
With more parents working, many kids come home to an empty house after school. These children are called latchkey children. It is important to consider what your children are doing between the time they get home from school and the time you get home from work.
First, you must decide if your child is capable of being left alone. Is your child old enough? Is he mature enough? Is he trustworthy and responsible? Will he let other kids into the house? There is no specific legal age that allows a parent to leave a child alone. Some 12 year olds may be capable, some may not. Some 17 year olds may not be capable. It depends on the child. Hiring a sitter or having your child go to a friend or relative's house may be a good alternative.
If your child does stay home alone, here are some important considerations:
- Make sure children have their own keys to the house. Don't hide keys outside or leave doors open for them.
- Teach children to look around the outside of the house when they get home from school. If they see signs of forced entry, they should not go in. Tell them to go to a neighbor's house to call the police.
- Have children check in with you or a family member by phone when they get home from school.
- Make sure they keep doors and windows locked.
- Teach them how to properly answer the front door and telephone. They should not open doors to strangers, and not tell people they are alone.
- Make sure they understand fire safety rules. If they are allowed to use the stove, make sure they practice safe cooking procedures. They should have access to a fire extinguisher and know how to use it. If the fire is too large to control, they should get out of the house.
- Teach children how to shut off the water and electricity.
- Teach your children about basic first aid procedures.
- Make sure children know their address and phone number. Keep a list of responsible people and their phone numbers near the phone.
- Teach them how to report emergency and non-emergency police and fire incidents.
The Fremont Police Department has some excellent brochures about safety for latchkey children. Contact the Community Engagement at 510-790-6740 for additional information.