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How to prep kids for being home alone

Summer vacation has started, and for many parents that brings concerns about children being home alone.

Here are some tips to prepare the kids and give you some peace of mind:

  •  Make sure that your children, and possibly a neighbor, know how to reach you in case of emergency. Make sure important telephone numbers such as your number at work, your doctor, a neighbor or family member, and police are written down and placed on the refrigerator door where they can be seen.
  •  Many children stay with their older siblings, but remember: Teenagers are children, too. They may be mature enough to watch over the little ones, but they are still kids at heart. So give them strict rules to follow, and write them down. Sit with your older children and discuss exactly what their responsibility entails, including that they are not to have any friends over, unless it’s with your permission.
  •  Call home at least two times a day. Tell the children not to answer calls from anyone but you.
  • Tell the children that if anyone knocks, they should answer with a strong voice, “Who is it?” and, unless they know who it is, they must not open the door. Recently, some thieves were caught knocking on doors to find out if anyone was home. When someone answered, then they would make some excuse, such as, “Oh, sorry, wrong house,” and go away. The lesson here: Don’t keep quiet if someone knocks. If you have a grandparent or baby sitter, remind them also of this. It will prevent the possibility of someone trying to break in. Advise your child or caretaker to call the police if the visitor refuses to leave or something doesn’t look right or suspicious.
  • Show the children where to exit in case of fire, including how to unlock the window, if you have special locks or iron bars. Show them how to use the burglar alarm if you have one, especially if it’s programmed for emergencies. If you have a pool, and if you have little ones, make sure that the gates are up and locked. The same goes if you live near a canal. Every year, children drown because they sneak off before anyone notices.

Some of these suggestions seem like common sense, but disdcussing them with the children, no matter how old they are, will help them feel more secure being home alone. 

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Email her at or call her at 305-470-1670.