Coach Aleasa Word gives tips on how to prepare your latch key kid.
Tips on Preparing Your Latch Key Kid
Staying home alone is a big deal for kids. They want to feel like they are being rewarded for being responsible. They want to feel like you trust them and this is a huge confidence builder for them. For parents though this can be a scary time as we know the realities of the dangers in the world. In today’s world it seems as if they are magnified more than ever. Not only do we have ot worry about in person predators but online predators as well. There’s a lot to swallow when you’re ready to leave your kid alone but as a parent there are some signs you can look for to see when they’re ready to take this big leap of independence.
- Know Your Municipality. Kids develop at their own individual pace so legal restrictions are just part of the picture. Many experts suggest that ages 10 to 12 is a typical threshold period for starting self-care. Your local police department or Child Protective Services agency can advise you on the laws for your jurisdiction.
- Don’t force them. Make sure they feel ready. Otherwise, the experience can backfire and create more fears and anxieties.
- Check their stats. Look for evidence of taking responsibility and demonstrating sound judgment. Does your child get himself ready for school? Is his homework consistently done on time with minimal supervision?
Things to do to get ready
- Trial runs are great. Build up to leaving a child alone for longer stretches. Start out with quick visits to a neighbor or trips to a local store. Discuss any issues that arise. Praise them for managing on their own and looking after the house.
- Roleplay is very important. Train your child on how to answer the phone and door when no adult is present. Get together and role play about how to call 911 and respond to other emergencies.
- Go over the rules in detail (don’t assume they understand or don’t understand). People of all ages are more likely to obey rules when they participate in making them and buy into the reasoning behind them. Many kids also need occasional reminders about anything that occurs infrequently.
- Call-ins are a must. Create the feeling of supervision. Ask a neighbor to check in while you’re out. Require your child to call you when they arrive home or if they plan on going out.
- Talk about guests (or rather NO guests) . Ban all guests if you think that’s safest. Remember it’s your home and you’re responsible if other people’s children come over even when you’re not there. Otherwise you may want to specify which individuals are allowed over and limit the number at any one time.
- Make it fun. Boredom can lead to trouble. Give your kids something to do, so, for example, they’ll play a board game instead of making prank phone calls.
- Create a go to list. Stick a list of important contacts on the refrigerator door and by each phone. Include the police and fire departments, your family doctor and your own numbers.
- Be internet savvy. Some parents prefer to shut down internet access completely. In any case, talk with your kids about staying safe online and remaining alert to their surroundings.
- Decide on foods available. Put the stove off limits to younger kids. Leave them with food that’s ready to eat or can just be heated in the microwave. This is especially key if you have children with food concerns like allergies of diabetes.
- Remove dangerous things. Double check that matches and prescription drugs are out of reach. Get rid of any toxic products that you’re unlikely to use. Also, if you have guns in your house, please make sure they are out of sight and secured.
- Safety first. Check that everything is locked, including the garage. Give a spare key to a neighbor in case your child loses their own. Teach kids to go to a neighbor’s house and call the police if they see a broken window or other signs of a possible break-in.
Work schedules and other obligations make child care challenging for many families. If your kids are ready to be alone this can be a help and less of a financial burden but it’s not wise to do this until you are absolutely sure the time is right.
Photo : Flickr/Alex Grech