Ready, Set, Solo
Once you've decided your child is ready to be left alone for a few hours, you need to prepare him well. Go through a list of hypothetical situations, and even consider role-playing with him. Here is a partial list of what to review:
- If someone calls or stops by the house, you child should never reveal that he's home alone. He should have rehearsed some answers such as, "My mom is busy in the kitchen. Can I take a message?"
- Your child should carry her key with her at all times. Don't label the key with your address or phone number in case it gets lost, and instruct her to have it in her hand when she arrives home. If she stands outside the door fumbling, someone may notice.
- Tell your child never to enter the house if something looks suspect: A door is ajar, or a window is broken or open.
- Have a good backup plan. If something appears awry, your child should have a "Plan B." Ask a reliable neighbor or relative to be on call for such emergencies until you get home.
- Instruct your child to call you as soon as he gets into the house. That way, you'll know he's safe, and you can go over any details including homework, snacks, and visitors with him.
- Your child should not let anyone into the house for any reason. Even if someone claims, "Your mom and dad told me to come get you," she should know to ask for a code word that you agreed to ahead of time.
- Set up a list of emergency phone numbers and instructions for your youngster (the way you would for a sitter), and post it on the fridge.
- Make sure your child knows basic first aid and fire safety, including how to use the 911system. He must know to give your full address and stay on the phone until the operator has all the details and tells him to hang up.