Probably sometime, when your child gets into his pre teens you start wondering if you can leave him alone at home. If he is comfortable with the idea, you might like to try it out. Read on to find out how to prepare your child to stay safe not just from strangers, but also from accidents in your absence.
Once you feel that your child is ready to stay alone at home and he is excited about the idea too, you are all set to give it a shot. However, there are a few tips that you must ingrain in your child before you can be assured of his safety in your absence. Read on about the precautions you need to take to make sure he is safe from strangers who come knocking as also from accidents at home. You will need to equip him with emergency plans and contact numbers. You might also need to enlist the help of a neighbour whom he can go to in case of any help.
When is it Safe to Leave a Child Home Alone
Before we look at home alone safety tips, it is important to consider whether it is right to leave your children alone at home in a given situation. Here is what you need to assess before leaving your child home alone.
1. Daytime is better than nighttime.
Yes, it is true – crimes can happen at any time of the day. However, in the unfortunate case that your child’s safety is compromised, getting help in the daytime is easier than at night. Children also can feel scared if they are left alone at night. So it is best avoided.
2. Consider the age of your child.
Is your child old enough to be left alone? Can your child talk, make a phone call, lock doors, shout for help? Will your child be able to help himself if he gets hurt? These basic things need to be assessed before leaving the child alone in the house.
3. Is help readily available?
This is especially important when leaving children alone for more than a couple of hours. If you are not able to get to your child on time, would any other person be available, if such a situation arises?
WATCH: This 16-Question Safety Test is for Every Child and Parent
13 Safety Tips for Kids at Home Alone
Here are some important home safety tips for kids that every parent must follow.
1. Ensure judicious phone usage.
If your child is arriving from school in your absence, ask him to call you as soon as he gets home. Other than that, phone usage should be kept to a minimum. Install caller ID and tell your child to take calls only from known numbers. Other calls should be allowed to go to the answering machine.
2. Keep emergency contact numbers handy.
Stick a list of phone numbers on the refrigerator or by the phone or wherever it is easily accessible. The list should have all emergency contact numbers including your and your spouse’s office contacts, numbers of relatives, neighbours or any other person who you think your child may need.
3. Prepare him for emergencies.
Tell him what to do if he gets hurt or needs help. You could try practising what he needs to do in case of an emergency. He could reach out to a neighbour or make a call. Keep the neighbour informed too. He or she can be your go-to number in case you cannot reach your child on call.
4. Keep cooking to a minimum.
Keep dry, non-messy snacks at easy reach for your child. Allow cooking to a minimum. At the most, you could settle for allowing him to warm his food. Specify the utensils he can use to do so and make sure he knows how to safely operate a microwave oven or a hot plate.
5. Keep him busy.
Make out a timetable along with him. Give him a routine to follow when you are not there. That will keep him away from mischief. Teach him first aid: Make sure your child knows basic first aid. Keep a first aid box handy with supplies like Band-Aid, cotton, antiseptic cream, etc.
6. Have grilles on large open windows.
When we are around, children tend to behave better as they want to avoid being reprimanded. However, they might get up to mischief when you leave the house. They are going to climb on forbidden platforms and want to peek faaaar out from the window. To avoid accidents, instal grilles on large open windows.
7. Keep balconies and terraces locked.
Balconies and terraces comprise another danger zone when kids are left without supervision. Not only is there the danger of kids climbing and falling, birds and other animals can enter the house too. The best way to keep them safe is to restrict access to the balcony and terrace. Lock it and keep the keys with you.
8. Keep poisonous substances away.
Pesticides, toilet cleaner, insecticides, mosquito repellents, paints, etc. all pose poisoning hazard (in the event that they inhale or ingest it). Keep these and other similar substances locked away and out of your children’s reach.
9. Keep shotguns and knives locked away.
Sharp objects, especially weapons, knives, scissors, repairing tools can be hazardous to children. Out of curiosity, they may want to play with such objects, although they are not playthings! Keep such objects out of your child’s reach.
10. Lock your child from outside.
While that may sound extreme, one of the best ways to keep your child from opening the door to strangers is to simply lock the child inside the house! When you do that, however, make sure all their basic necessities are taken care of – ensure there is enough food, snacks, water, medicines, etc. in the house so that your child won’t be locked away from his needs!
11. Password-protect your child.
If you cannot or do not wish to lock your child in, develop a password system with your child. A password system is a method of identifying ‘friends’ from ‘foes’ or strangers. You basically memorise a word that acts as a password for your child. Only an adult who knows the password should be considered a friend. Other ways to make the password system work is: you and your child could memorise a sentence. The first half will be recited by your child, and the adult wishing to enter the house should be able to recite the second half of the system.You can also develop a question-answer kind of password system.
12. Have some strict ground rules.
You could include like
- Do not leave the house.
- Do not allow anyone in, not even friends.
- Always look through the peephole before opening the door.
- Never open the door to strangers, delivery boys, cable man or repairmen of any kind.
- Do not take or make phone calls.
- Do not use a lighter or matchsticks.
- No Internet usage Or No telling anyone on social media that you are alone at home.
13. Promise a reward!
Nothing incentivises good behaviour better than a reward! On your way out of the house, after you have given your child all the instructions you need to, you can tell them that you will get them a gift if they obey all the rules and do not get into trouble!
Leaving a child alone at home is a big step for any parent. However, with the precautions in place and support from friendly neighbours children can be taught to take care of their safety.