Summer is here and kids will soon be taking their precious summer breaks. This is a time for working parents to be concerned since many children will be home alone all day. So once again let’s discuss some things that parents can do that are vital for our children’s safety. This will also help you as parents to have some peace of mind while you are away from home.
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 such as the numbers for you at work, for your doctor, for a neighbor or a family member and for police are written down and placed on the refrigerator door.
Many children stay with their older siblings, but please remember, teenagers are children, too. They may be mature enough to watch over the little ones, but they are kids at heart. 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 responsibility entails, 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, they must not open the door. Recently, some thieves were caught knocking on doors to find out if anyone was home. The lesson here is: 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.
Show the children where to exit in case of fire, including how to unlock the windows if you have special locks or iron bars, because they may not know how to unlock them.
Now is the time to show them what, if anything, they can cook. Make sure that they know the dangers of cooking. It will be best if you just plan out their lunch for the week let them help you organize it, because kids do get hungry.
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 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 what 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.