These days, happily, working parents spend far more time with their children than parents of thirty years ago did, but working arrangements can still mean young teenagers arriving home and remaining unsupervised for a couple of hours.
For those parents who need to let their children enjoy a couple of hours of independence, safety is the prime concern, and these ideas will ensure your children’s safety and security until you get home.
If your child is old enough to be at home alone for a couple of hours, then he or she is old enough to look after a key. Make sure the key is on a ring, which makes it bulkier to carry, and reduces the chances of it being lost. Never ever attach an address label to your key, if the key gets lost this is just inviting burglars to come round and empty your house before you get home.
If you are worried about your child keeping a key safely, why not arrange for a neighbour or nearby relative to keep the key for collection each day, to avoid the worry of lost keys.
Ensure that you have a two-way contact system for your child to advise a responsible adult that they have arrived home safely. If you are not easily contactable, once again a relative or neighbour can be telephoned. A simple code system – three rings or similar – will advise safe arrival without incurring mounting costs of a daily phone call.
Always unforeseen, something can crop up which prevents usual arrival at home, and you need contingency plans to ensure that your child can contact someone, or you can contact them.
Most schools do not permit the carrying of mobile phones in school time, so make sure your child always has money to make a phone call, or is aware of the ‘reverse charge’ system for letting someone know what’s happening.
Safety inside the Home
You want your children to remain safe and well until the time when you arrive home for the evening, so some basic safety rules should be explained to them, and strictly enforced for peace of mind.
- The door is not to be opened to anyone your child does not know well. The caller should be ignored, with no dialogue through the closed door, especially nothing that indicates that there is no adult at home at that time.
- The phone should not be answered, except after a pre-arranged signal – three rings for example, followed immediately by a second call, which can be answered safely. Make sure you have an answering machine or callback facility so you don’t miss any important phone calls.
- Preparation of hot food should be discouraged, unless you are certain that your child is absolutely safe in the kitchen. No matter how sure you are that your child is sensible, the cooking of chips should be banned at any time you are not in the house.
- Leaving the house should be kept to an absolute minimum and if possible your child should remain indoors with all doors securely shut until you arrive home.
- Accompanying friends should be kept to a minimum, certainly no more than two at a time, to avoid any temptation to get into mischief.
Establishing rules for safety and security like these will ensure that your child remains safe and happy at home until you arrive, and there are contingency plans in place for the unexpected.
Remember, most children accept responsibility if it is placed with sufficient guidance to prevent any mishaps, so you can help your children on this first important step towards their independence.