Children need to know what to do if they are ever home alone. Even if you never leave your house when your children are there, there are times when you are unavailable. For example, when you are in the shower, in the garden, or taking a nap, they are on their own. When your child is alone at home, he will be the only one available to answer the door or telephone, so he should know exactly how to handle these situations. It is critical that he does not give any specific information over the phone, such as his name, your name, your address, or that he is home alone. Establish concrete guidelines for your children when they are by themselves at home. Prepare them so that they feel confident in as many situations as possible.
- Tell your child never to tell anyone that she is home alone. She should not give any information to anyone calling on the phone or at the door. You might want to instruct her to let your answering machine screen all phone calls. Your child should tell the person that her parent or guardian is busy and will call them later. Your child should never open the door to anyone who has not been approved, such as a repairman or neighbor, or anyone who says there is an emergency and needs to use the phone.
- Practice “home alone” skills. When your child is home alone, check on her skills by calling her and knocking on the door. Have her practice saying things like, “My mother is taking a nap. She’ll call you back.” Practice “what-if” situations. For example, “What if a policeman came to the door and said there was an accident or other emergency in the neighborhood and you had to open the door?” (In this case she should tell the officer that she will call the police department for confirmation before opening the door.)
- Make sure your child knows who to call in an emergency. Keep all important phone numbers such as for trustworthy neighbors and your workplace in a convenient place. Also review when to call “911 ” or “0” for operator in an emergency.
- Make sure children five years of age and older know how to lock and unlock all of your doors and windows. They should also know how to work the alarm system if you have one.
- Review other “home alone” emergency plans, such as what to do in case of a fire. Be sure to keep all emergency telephone numbers near your telephone, including the phone number for the local hospital and the poison control center.
Taken from Raising Safe Kids in an Unsafe World, Jan Wagner, Avon Books, 1994
Kate Howard, Funny Tummy Feelings Program Coordinator