It’s that time: Kids are taking their precious summer breaks and their working parents will be concerned they’re home alone all day. So once again, let’s discuss some things that parents can do that are vital for their children’s safety.
First and foremost, please make sure that your children and, possibly, a neighbor know how to reach you in case of an emergency. Make sure that important telephone numbers (your cell, workplace, doctor, a neighbor or family member, and police) are written down and placed on the refrigerator door.
Many children stay with older siblings, but please remember: Teenagers are also children. They may be mature enough to watch over the little ones, but they are still kids. So give them strict rules to follow and write them down if you have to. Sit with your older children and discuss exactly what their responsibilities entail, including that they are not to have any friends over, unless it’s with your permission.
I know that sometimes it’s hard for a parent to break away from work to use the phone, but ask your boss to let you call at least two times a day. Work out a signal with your children so that they know it’s you calling them. Other than you, unless you have caller ID, tell them not to answer the phone.
Also, warn them that if anyone knocks, they should answer with a strong voice, “Who is it?” — and unless they know who it is do not open the door. Recently, some thieves were caught knocking on doors to find out if anyone was home. The lesson here: Don’t keep quiet if someone knocks. If you have a grandparent or babysitter, remind them also of this. It will prevent the possibility of someone trying to break in.
Other safety tips:
▪ Show the children where to exit in case of fire, including how to unlock windows if they have special locks or iron bars.
▪ Now is a good time to teach kids how to cook and how to stay safe in the kitchen. It’s best if you plan out their lunches for the week, but let them help you organize it.
▪ Show them how to use the burglar alarm if you have one, especially if it’s programmed for emergencies.
▪ If you have a pool, make sure it is gated and locked. Take precautions if you live near a canal or river. Every year, children drown because they sneak off before anyone notices.
Some of these issues might seem like “duh, common sense,’’ but these are things that we really need to talk to our children about, no matter their age. It will help them feel more secure being home alone.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.