As May 25th signifies National Missing Children’s Day, it is important to re-iterate the importance of preparing your child for independence prior to letting them be a Latchkey-Kid. The U.S. census reveals that, at one time or another during the week, up to one third of all school age children go back to an empty home after classes end.
Know Their Maturity Level
The first step to knowing whether your child is ready to experience the independence of being a latchkey kid is to test their limits: offer them the chance to do things independently. By making themselves a snack, spending time alone while you are briefly out of the house, or biking to a neighbor’s nearby, parents can gain a sense of their basic reasoning skills. The tools they implement in navigating these tasks will quickly indicate whether they are ready to be left alone, and if they have the maturity level yet to negotiate dangerous situations.
Who do they call if they need help? What is the first thing they do if a potential predator approaches them? Education goes beyond the simplistic phrase of “Do not talk to strangers.” Teaching your child, whether it is through discussion with a local child-safety NPO (many offer Child Safety programs) or through child safety tips, can help ensure that your children can both recognize dangerous situations and navigate these scenarios if necessary.
Invest In Security
Before letting your child stay home, invest in a home security and monitoring system appropriate for your needs. Once the system is installed, let your child take the reigns: allow them to turn the alarm on and off when you leave the house together,teach them exactly how the systems works, and tell them what to do in case there’s ever a false alarm.
Once your child becomes comfortable operating the alarm, let them know how easy it is implement it while you are away. As an added benefit, home-monitoring systems can alert you of carbon monoxide poisoning and floods, especially helpful as your child begins to learn how to make Top Ramen and run the dishwasher.
Another, more unconventional, type of home security system is a guard dog. In general, dogs are great for alerting you of predators, and an alert dog can aid in defending your child in the event of an intrusion.
Develop A Plan