Children Home Alone

Most families in America have both parents working outside of the home. This certainly creates concern when children arrive home from school at 3 p.m. but Mom and Dad won't be there until after 5 p.m. The following are some guidelines for parents who decide not to use a sitter or another responsible adult for supervision during that time period. Making sure your children know the safety rules will help them, and you, anytime you can't be together.

What You Can Do
  • Make sure your children are old enough and mature enough to care for themselves.
  • Teach them basic safety rules.
  • Know the three "W's" that are important whether you are home or not:
    • Where - your children are
    • What - they are doing
    • Who - they are with
Are They Ready?
Ask yourself if your children can do the following:
  • Be trusted to go straight home after school?
  • Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
  • Follow rules and instructions well?
  • Handle unexpected situations without panicking?
  • Stay alone without being afraid?
A Word About Curiosity
Are there things you don't want your children to get into? Take time to talk to them about the deadly consequences of the following dangers:
  • Cleaning products
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Guns
  • Inhalants
  • Medicines
  • Power tools
Make sure you keep these items in a secure place out of sight and locked up.

Teach Your "Home Alone" Children
  • That they must check in with you, a relative, or a neighbor every day. Set a reasonable time for them to arrive home and make clear what will happen if you don't receive their call
  • How to call 911 for assistance
  • Their home address and directions to the home if necessary in case of emergency
  • Never accept gifts or rides from people they don't know well and are approved by you in advance
  • How to use door and window locks and the alarm system if you have one
  • Never to let anyone into your home when adults aren't there unless you approve it
  • Never let a caller at the door or on the phone know that they are alone. Teach them to say that mom / dad can't come to the phone or door right now
  • To carry a house key with them in a safe place. Do not leave hidden keys outside of the home
  • How to escape in case of a fire
  • Not to go into an empty house or apartment if things don't look right - a broken window, ripped screen, or open door
  • To let you know about anything that frightens them or makes them feel uncomfortable