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10 Safety Tips To Share With Children Who Stay Home Alone

Hello Everyone,

With Summer approaching we are all looking for ways to keep our kids from avoiding the Summer Slide. There are a lot of summer camps being offered in our community that help to keep the kids entertained, as well as giving them enough time to spend their summer learning on what exactly interest them. There are times when we have planned everything down to the minute and then we realize that we have a two to three hours that must be filled, or the kiddos might have to stay home by themselves. In Michigan there is no clear law that states how old a child must be to be left home alone. According to The Michigan Child Protection Law children between the ages of 10 through 12 are looked at on a case by case basis. If you are not sure about the laws in your State then go to  Home Alone Rules by State , for a quick reference. Whether your child is staying home alone after school or requesting the responsibility to stay home alone,  they will need to be prepared and taught important safety skills. We can not rely solely on common sense! It can be a huge freedom to families whose kids are becoming more independent, and adds more flexibility into their lives. A good place to start to get your kiddos ready for this adult like responsibility is to start with a list of safety tips that makes sure you don't miss covering the important stuff.  Read On! ☺


1. First thing to do is make sure you already have a designated Emergency Person that you trust that in a whim of a notice they would be able to assist your child. Things happen and our child needs to know that if you are not available that another adult will be there to help. Make sure your emergency person knows when your child will be home alone. It is important to note that no one should know that your child is home alone except for you and the emergency person. Your child needs to be trusted enough that they also don't share with friends that they will be home alone.

2. Make sure your child knows your phone number and/or the house landline number. We often take this knowledge for granted, but when your home alone we want these numbers memorized. It is great to have them in a contact list, but our cell phones can get damaged, or even lost. So having the numbers memorized helps to reduce the anxiety if something should prevent the phone from not working properly, and if an emergency occurs it is quicker to make the call when it is memorized.

3. If you do have a landline and your child may be home to answer the calls. You can tell them not to answer the phone, or if they have to answer make sure they tell the other person on the phone that you are not available to come to the phone right now. They are not lying, you are unavailable! What this does though is not send a could be predator to your house door. Let's face it, there are people who can't be trusted and they don't need to know your child is home alone. 

4. It should be clear to the child that you are not expecting any guest when they are home alone and the door should not be answered for anyone, not even a family member that comes unannounced. You are instilling in your child to be cautious, and mindful of their environment. Let them know to call you ASAP if someone persist on knocking, but never to address the person on the other side of the door.  If you may have lost your phone, and need the emergency person to go to your home it is best that you have already created a signature knock that helps your child feel safe to open. Practice the knock over and over and let this become the "Family's Knock". Please let the child know that the "Family's Knock" should not be shared with anyone else.

5. If this is a reoccurring time that your child will be home, make sure you call at the same time everyday to make sure they have made it home safely. If it is just a special occasion, then  after about an hour of them being home alone you should call to check up on them. One of the things you may want to do is to create a simple ring code that happens when only your the one calling so they know to answer the phone. These codes with help create a new family security system that can be passed down to generation after generation. 
6. When a child first stays home alone it is wise for them not to go outside and play. Too many things can happen and outside play can cause a distraction from staying safe. Perhaps have an art activity or something that they normally might not do at home, but love to do! Art and crafts are a winner for this!

7. Discuss making snacks that do not require a stove or oven. Make sure there are friendly snacks available to deter this. Microwaves help tremendously with this, you can make popcorn, warm up a frozen meal, and warm up leftovers. We don't want them hungry, but we don't want them cooking while home alone. Just think even sometimes we forget to turn the dial for the burner all the way off, and can forget to turn the oven off.

8. Check all Smoke Detectors to make sure they are working and the batteries are good to go. That beeping sound that comes from smoke detectors when batteries need to be replaced is one of the most annoying things to hear. Let's make sure that they only have to focus on keeping themselves safe.

9. Does your child use the internet for online gaming and such? When they first start being home alone, I would suggest that they don't. Again, it's not about keeping them "Locked Down", but safe. Most of the time when we are playing live games online they indicate that we are home. Less clues of our whereabouts helps to reduce the chances of someone learning our routines. The internet is filled with child predators disguised as friends. Be sure your child knows without a doubt that they should never share with anyone that they are home alone, even their online friends. 

10. Keep a spare key in a place outside of your home that nobody knows is there but you. Don't even tell your child about it until the time arrives that you should get a phone call from them telling you that they have lost their key. Most kids don't figure out they have lost the key until it is time to use it. Being proactive in leaving a key outside in a safe space, no matter the weather allows this mistake to not cause an emergency in other areas, and still allows the child to feel confident about staying home. There will be mistakes, but how we handle them means the most. I never felt like a key should be hung around a neck, to me it is a sign saying "Look I am going to be home alone someday!". Have the child keep the key in an inside pocket of a backpack, wallet, or purse.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but perhaps a good starting point to begin the process of staying home alone. There are other important considerations besides the child's age that can help us to determine whether or not a child has the capabilities to stay home alone. We will need to take into consideration their maturity level, the length of time one is being home alone, the time of day, and really if they feel like they are ready for the responsibility. Our Babysitting Classes are a great way to prepare your child to not only take care of another, but also prepares those who may be left home alone and how to care for their younger siblings. We spend a lot of time on safety and play role various scenarios. We discuss evacuation plans, and such. Also, they learn important ways to handle stressful situations. And the  most important rule of all.... It is okay to call the adult when you need help! 

Is there anything that you would add to the list? If so please leave it in the comments so other readers can learn from your tips as well. Thank you!

Stay Safe Peeps,

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