- Are those who must stay at home alone taking care of themselves for some part of the day
- Often feel lonely, bored and scared
- Should have a clear understanding of why they must be left alone and what they may and may not do so that they have a decreased risk of injury and victimization
Promoting Self-Care Skills
- Parents should focus on setting rules and limits, increasing levels of responsibility and communicating basic safety information. Discuss the routines they are to follow — household chores, pets to tend, homework, family policies on visiting friends or having friends visit them and what to do when the phone or doorbell rings.
- Parents should teach their children:
- To memorize their name and address, including city and state
- To memorize their phone number, including area code
- To use the phone to make emergency, local and long-distance calls and to reach the operator
- To check in with you or a neighbor immediately after arriving home
- To never go into your home if there’s an open door or a broken window
- How to work your home’s door and window locks and to lock them when they are at home alone
- How to answer the doorbell and phone when they’re home alone
- Not to go into anyone else’s home without your permission
- To avoid walking or playing alone outside
- That a stranger is someone neither you nor they know well
- That if they feel they’re being followed, either on foot or by a car, to run to the nearest public place, neighbor or “safe house”
- To tell you if anyone asks them to keep a secret, offers them gifts or money or asks to take their picture
- To always tell you if something happened while they were away from you that made them feel uncomfortable in any way
Exploring Community Resources
- Many voluntary community groups run a “Phone Friend” program, which is a “warm line” that latchkey children can call if they’re scared or lonely. It’s not meant to replace regular contact with a parent or other trusted adult, but it could be a valuable resource, particularly for those parents whose jobs don’t allow unlimited access to a phone.
- A block parent program or other safety programs may be operating in your community — check with your parent-teacher group or law enforcement agency. If such a program exists, be sure your children know the locations of the safe houses along their regular routes to and from school, and walk those routes with them to be sure they’re safe. Point out areas such as alleys, deserted buildings or abandoned houses that should be avoided.
- “Extended day” programs may exist in your local school, recreation departments, churches or neighborhood organizations (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs of America). Or you may be able to start one with the help of other concerned parents.
- You should check with your children’s school about their policies concerning absences and the release of your children to anyone but you. Be sure the school won’t accept phone calls stating that someone other than their parents will pick up children and that the school will notify you if your child isn’t in class. Find out if there’s a “Parent Alert” or “Callback” program or contact a local volunteer group (e.g., the American Association of Retired Persons or the PTA) about starting one. This kind of program uses volunteers to call parents (even on their jobs) if their children aren’t in school.