Written by Kira
Nowadays, people find themselves settling for working hours that are dictated by the employer. This can leave a gap between the time children get out of school and parents come home from work.
Though the parents are working, it doesn’t mean that all of them are earning enough to cover the cost of daycare, or a babysitter that could be with their child until they come home. Some kids have access to after-school programs, but these programs are sometimes getting cut, taking that choice away and leaving them with the only option of having to return into an empty house.
Unfortunately, 4% of children who study in the 5th grade and younger, have to care for themselves after school. On the one hand, the number of unsupervised children in the U.S. has peaked to over 15.1 million, and it isn’t a result of poverty. On the other hand, there are parents that have never even considered letting their child be home alone after school, due to having serious fears such as if the child might get abducted on the way home, loose the key and get locked out of house, or if some random accident happens.
Should Children be Left Alone?
Some states do have laws regarding the age requirements of a child to be left alone for a short period of time, but there are ways a parent can know if their child is ready. If the answers to all of the following questions are positive, then he really is.
- Does the child feel comfortable to talk about problems which might occur?
- Will he (or she) remember to call someone off a list of emergency numbers if a problem arises?
- Is there a reliable neighbor to go to, in order to ask for help?
Things that Can Be Done
- Have an extra key at a neighbor’s place, or a secret hideaway, in case that the child misplaces the key and gets locked out.
- Make a list of emergency numbers and put them in a visible place.
- Agree on a password, in case that someone tries to convince the child to open the front door or to pick him up from school.
- Tell the child to call and check-in the moment they arrive home.
- Have them learn simple first aid rules and what to do if an emergency (such as a fire) occurs.
- Instruct the child NEVER to go inside the house if something looks odd, and get the neighbor notified instead.
Another thing you can do is to get to know the people in the neighborhood. Ask neighbors to give an eye out for any irresponsible behavior of your child when you are away.
The tips above can save a lot of headache and anxiety, if there is no other choice but leaving a child home alone. In general, the effort of taking precautions and training the child in advance is very likely to pay off in the long run.