Your Go-To Guide for Latchkey Kid Safety
Caring for your family is never easy. You have to pay your bills, cook meals, clean the house, and make sure your children make it to school on time. You have to wash piles of dishes and sort through mountains of laundry.
These everyday tasks become even more difficult when you have to work a full time job. Somehow you have to balance your work with your home life, and sometimes the two don't quite mesh.
After looking at your new shift schedule, you realize that your children will come home long before you do. On some days, they'll stay home alone for a few minutes, but on other days, they'll stay alone for several hours.
You'll have to have a spare key cut, but what else can you do to keep your kids safe while you work?
Preparing Your Home
Your home should be a sanctuary of safety for your children. They should feel comfortable staying in the house with or without you there. Take the following steps to reduce risks and avoid potential problems.
Perform a Safety Check
Begin with a thorough safety check of your home. Make sure fire and carbon monoxide monitors are up to date and functional. Place any adult items (firearms, medicines, etc.) out of reach, and move any tripping hazards like chords, drapes, and curtains out of the way.
If your children are too young to cook for themselves, explain to them that they should never touch the stovetop and cutlery. Then provide safe, easy-to-open snacks within their reach.
Put Together a First Aid Kit
Even if you remove many of the hazardous items in your home, bumps and bruises may still happen. Since you won't be home to kiss these injuries better, assemble a first aid kid and teach your children how to use it.
Create a List of Emergency Contact Numbers
During an emergency, your child will need help from an adult. Create a list of emergency contact numbers so he or she can quickly call for help. Include information for neighbours and relatives who live nearby, as well as numbers for extreme cases (such as the fire department and poison information centre).
Ideally, your children will never need to use this list, but they should have it on hand, just in case. Post this list in an easy-to-find location, such as the fridge. Or save these numbers to your child's phone if he or she has one.
Preparing Your Child
Now that you've prepared your home, you need to prepare your child. Before giving your child the spare key, make sure he or she will handle the situation responsibly.
Discuss the Routine
Your child is likely old enough to understand how to get to and from school safely. Perhaps he or she walks the same route or gets off at the same bus stop every day.
However, when you're gone, this routine becomes even more important. To ensure your child stays safe, emphasize that he or she must come home at the same time and check in with you once he or she arrives.
Also, you can establish additional rules for your children to follow while they're home alone. Possible rules include:
- Keep all the doors locked at all times
- Never invite friends over without your permission
- If someone calls and asks for you, your child should say you're busy rather than away
- Keep the spare key safely out of sight—don't let friends borrow or play with it
Feel free to adjust these rules based on your children's maturity levels.
Get to Know the Neighbours
Your neighbours can keep an eye out for your children while you work. Although you don't need to enlist them as babysitters, your neighbours can step in to help during emergencies.
If you trust them, give your neighbours a spare key for the times your children lock themselves out.
Review Emergency Situations
Some people panic during emergency situations, so your children might too. To help them stay calm, role-play emergency scenarios. Teach your children when it's appropriate to call 911 and when it's better to run to your next-door neighbour.
You can take additional steps to ensure your latchkey kid stays safe while you work:
- Download Child Safety Apps: If your child has a smartphone, consider downloading apps like the Family GPS Tracker which lets you know where your child is. Keep in mind that GPS features can quickly drain phone batteries.
- Keep in Touch with Your Child: Just because you're at work doesn't mean you can't keep in touch with your child. Have your child text or call you as often as needed.
- Be Careful with the Spare Key: Spare keys are a great way to let your child into your home. However, some children might feel tempted to loan the key to a friend or they might lose the spare key as they walk home from school. If the key becomes lost or missing, have rekey the locks to minimize the likelihood of break-ins.
While leaving your child home alone can feel scary for the both of you, these tips can help you both stay calm, relaxed, and safe.
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