One of the challenges of being a working mom is worrying about the whereabouts of your kids after school. As Trisha R. explains, "I ALWAYS worry about my child no matter WHERE she is . . . [it] is part of being a good mom." While there are ever more technology-based options for keeping tabs on your kids, including SmartPhone apps and services that sends you a text message when your kids walk in or out of the front door, most of us want to be able to rely on good old fashioned methods, like trust and communication.
Here, I've rounded up tips from Circle of Moms members who have latchkey kids as young as 9 and 10, on making sure your children stay safe while fending for themselves until you finish the workday.
1. Establish Ground Rules
Spell out the do's and don'ts for your child, suggest several Circle of Moms members. "Write them down, share them with your kids and post them," says Travasha F. "Make sure you include things like not going near the gas stove, or other things you don't want them near to keep them safe."
Trisha R. describes the rules she established with her daughter: "She is to come straight inside and immediately lock the door, and call me to let me know she is home safe. She is not allowed to have friends over, answer the door or the telephone unless it is approved. She has my phone number and is to call me at any time if she has a question, or just wants to hear my voice."
2. Discuss Safety
It may sound simple, but Circle of Moms members say it is important to sit down with your children and spell out what will keep them safe, including locking the doors, making sure they are not letting anyone in the house and how to call 911. Says Barbara S.: "My son was alone after school starting at age nine, and we talked about everyone he could call for support and about every [critical] situation that could come up. I also told him I would keep tabs and I would call 4-6 times in an hour to see if everything was ok with him." She and her son even talked about what he would do during the time and decided on safe activities like "homework and playing video games."
3. Check-in by Phone
Many members suggest checking in by cell phone to make sure your child is safe, starting from the moment school lets out. As Melani I. points out, this only works if your child remembers to bring their cell phone to school. She suggests reminding your kids to pack their cell phones in their backpacks, making sure they are charged, and "most importantly, to answer them when mom is calling!"
4. Enlist the Help of Friends and Neighbors
Reach out to friends and neighbors and ask if they would be willing to step in if your children need help. Angelique G., whose 11-year-old son started staying home by himself for an hour or two at a time last year, says, "We have great neighbors who I told in advance." She then included them in the list she have her son of important phone numbers, "in case something happened (other than needing to call 911)."
5. Lengthen the Leash Gradually
Several members point out that both you and your child need time to get used to a daily home alone arrangement, and that you should work up to it slowly. As Melanie I. explains, "We started out by letting our daughter stay alone while I ran errands . . . 20 - 30 minutes [at a time] and slowly built up [along] with my own confidence and certainty. We did establish some ground rules when the discussion came up. She did awesome and we were fortunate to never have any problems. In fact, this past school year, she and my youngest daughter (nine) rode the bus home from school and stayed alone till I got home from work -- which was anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. All year long - never had a problem."
Related Reading: 4 Safety Tips for Kids Who Are Home AloneHow do you keep your children safe when they're at home alone in the afternoons?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.