It's not surprising that working mothers worry most about their children's safety between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. This is the after school window of time when curious kids are most likely to be at home, by themselves. Left to their own devices, will they get busy and forget to keep an eye on a younger sibling? Open the door to a stranger? Accidentally set the house on fire?
Instead of worrying, consider these four safety tips from Circle of Moms members:
1. Post Emergency Numbers in an Obvious Place
Even the most mature children should have a list of important numbers handy, including 911, poison control, your number and those of nearby family or friends. As Laura F. advises: "I would leave emergency contacts on the fridge, have them learn your cell number by heart."
2. Go Over Possible Scenarios in Detail
Circle of Moms members recommend talking with your child about specific hypothetical situations, including what to do if the phone rings, if someone comes to the door, if they choke on something, or if a fire starts. Some moms suggest making them practice what to do in an emergency. "Make up different things... Have them act them out," suggests mother-of-four Rachel P., adding that your goal is not to scare them but rather to "Be open, be real and be positive."
3. Enroll Your Child in a First Aid Course
In addition to going over a detailed emergency plan with your child, moms like Amy J. suggest sending your child to a first aid/CPR or babysitting course before leaving kids home alone: "I sent my oldest daughter, age 11, to a Babysitter Training course through Red Cross before I felt comfortable leaving her alone…She was CPR Certified & I felt like she was very well equipped with the proper knowledge of what to do in an emergency."
4. Set and Post Specific Rules
Setting boundaries is important for your child's safety and your own sanity, so be very clear about what your child may and may not do while home alone. As Trisha R. shares of her home alone rules: "When I am not at home, she is not allowed to have friends over or to answer the door or the telephone, unless it is approved numbers/people." Other rules could include:
- Come straight home from school; no stopping at friends' houses
- Lock the door immediately
- Call mom as soon as you get home
- No using the stove or oven
- No TV or video games, or not until homework is done
Melanie I. offers another great suggestion for what to do when the doorbell rings while your child is home alone. She instructed her daughter to head to the other end of the house, to decrease that temptation "to peek to see who it is."