Home Alone: You're in Charge

When children are home alone

If your child is going be home alone before or after school, it may be helpful to let the teacher, bus driver, and school secretary know this.  Of course, once children leave school or exit the school bus, they and their parents are responsible for their safety.  Children who are home without adult supervision need guidelines so that their time alone is safe and productive.

You can make your child feel more comfortable at home alone by discussing after-school plans each morning, leaving a snack or a fun project for him or her to find upon arriving home, and calling home often.  Arranging in advance for your child to occasionally visit the local library or participate in supervised activities after school can also be a nice alternative to going home alone.

Here are some tips to review with children when they are going to be on their own.  Of course, you may to want modify these hints and add some of your own rules.

Safety

Keys - You'll have to let yourself into your home.  Be sure you have your key.  Carry it somewhere it won't get lost or stolen, such as pinned inside your pocket.  If you wear the key on a string around your neck, wear it inside your shirt so that strangers can't see it and it won't get caught on anything.  Know whom to call if you forget or lose your key.

On the way home - Come home right after school, unless other plans have been agreed upon by your parents.  If you must be late, call a parent to let them know.  Never accept a ride from a stranger.  Do not tell strangers you're going to be home alone.

At home - Lock the door as soon as you get inside.  Then call your "check-in friend" - a parent or other relative, or an adult friend chosen by your parents - to let him or her know you're home.  If you plan to leave for any reason, call your check-in friend first and also leave a note for your parents telling them where you are.  If you get home and find the door open, a window broken, or anything else that seems strange, go to an adult friend or relative or find a phone and call 911.  Don't enter your home until an adult checks to be sure it's OK.

Visitors - With your parents, make a list of people you are allowed to let in when you're home alone.  Be sure you have parents' permission to invite friends over.  Friends must follow these same rules - if they don't, ask them to leave.

Dangerous items - Never play with dangerous items, such as power tools, barbeque grills, or any weapons.  If you or a friend finds a gun in your home, do not touch it  - call your check-in friend or parent right away.

When the doorbell rings - If the doorbell rings, look through the peephole to see who is at the door.  Do not open the door for anyone who is not on the list approved by your parents.  Never tell strangers you're home alone - say your parents cannot come to the door.  (Some families have a rule not to answer the door at all when you're alone.)

Phone calls - Don't tell callers you're home alone.  If someone asks for Mom or Dad, tell them that she or he can't come to the phone, and take a message.  If you make calls, don't tie up the phone too long, in case someone is trying to reach you.  If you receive any "weird" phone calls, just hang up - don't listen or talk to the person calling.  If the call upsets you, hang up and call your check-in friend.

If you leave home - If you're home alone in the morning before school, and have to lock up the house before you leave, or are permitted to leave home after school, follow these steps: be sure faucets and lights are turned off; make sure all appliances (TV, stove, etc.) are off; be sure you have your key; and close all windows and lock all doors.

First aid and emergencies

 Accidents can happen at any time. You should know what to do in an emergency.  If in doubt, call your check-in friend, a parent, or dial 911.

First aid supplies - Know where first aid supplies are kept, including bandaids and gauze pads.

Cuts and scrapes - First stop the bleeding.  Use a clean paper towel or gauze pad.  Fold it and press it firmly against the cut.  If the bleeding does not stop in five minutes, call someone immediately.  After the bleeding has stopped, clean the area with soap and water.  Dry it and put on a bandaid or other bandage to keep it clean.

Burns - If you get a small burn, soak it with cold water, then dry the area and gently cover it with a loose bandage.  Burns are more serious if they are large, white, or charred.  For these serious burns, get help right away.

Bumps - Bumps feel better if you put something cold on them right away.  Put some ice in a plastic bag and tie it closed, then put the bag of ice on the bump.

Nosebleeds - If you get a nosebleed, sit quietly with your head up, and pinch your nose closed with a tissue.  Don't blow your nose.  If the bleeding doesn't stop in five minutes, call for help.

Broken glass - If you break glass, be sure you're wearing shoes before you try to clean it up.  Keep other children and pets away from the broken glass.  Sweep up the large pieces with a broom and dust pan.  Use a vacuum or a damp paper towel to get up the small pieces.

Fires - If a greasy pan catches fire while cooking, turn off the stove or oven and put a metal lid on the pan.  This will smother the fire.  You can also smother the fire with baking soda or salt.  Never put water on a grease fire.  If the TV or another electrical appliance starts smoking, pull out the plug.  If you can't pull the plug safely, call 911.  Never put water on an electrical fire.  If there's any fire you can't stop, leave your home right away and call 911 from a neighbor's house or other phone.  Never go back into a burning building.

Other emergencies - Have a flashlight and batteries in case the lights go out.  Do not use candles.  It's also a good idea to have a battery-powered radio to listen to in case there's severe weather.  Follow instructions such as staying indoors and away from windows in a severe storm.

Homework, chores, and fun

You have time after school, before Mom or Dad gets home.  Why not use that time for work or fun?

Homework - Homework is an important after-school responsibility.  It helps you review what you learned in school.  Set aside a time and place to do homework.  Turn off the TV - you'll get it done faster and better.

Chores - Families have to work together to keep their homes clean and orderly.  You can use after-school time to do chores.  Your family could develop a schedule of who does each chore, so you know what you need to do each day.

Fun - Don't head straight for the TV after school.  There are lots of other ways to have fun:  drawing or painting; reading; playing with games or puzzles; and writing a letter to a friend or relative.

School staff and families...the more we work together, the more we'll help our children.

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