Safety Rules for Children Who Stay Home Alone
A sharp knife actually is safer than a dull one, which might cause your child to struggle harder when he's cutting something. A safer alternative is kitchen scissors, which work for soft cutting jobs—everything from pizza to canned tomatoes. Don't let your child use sharp knives when you aren't home unless he has had a lot of experience using them safely.
A peephole in the front door lets your child see who is outside without having to unlock the door. If you don't have a peephole (and there's not a curtained window near the front door that serves the same purpose) consider installing one.
If you don't already own a dog, now might be the time to think about getting one. Some kids in self-care like the company of a pet, and dogs also provide an extra measure of protection against intruders.
It's probably a common occurrence for strangers to phone your house or knock on your door. Usually none of them means any harm, but a child home alone cannot take chances.
While she's in the house, your child should keep the doors and windows locked. It's a good idea to keep ground floor curtains closed, too, so strangers can't peer inside. If someone knocks, your child should find out who it is and only open the door if it's someone she knows.
If a stranger comes to the door, your child should not let that person in under any circumstances. Some kids have trouble following this rule because they're tempted to trust their instincts instead.
For example, if a delivery person says he has a package for the child's father and she must sign for it, she might think that's safe, but it's safer to tell the stranger that her dad can't come to the door right now and to come back later. If a stranger says she needs to use the phone because there's been an accident, a child's natural inclination is to be helpful. Instead, she should summon a neighbor by phone, or place a 911 call for the stranger instead of letting her inside.
Tell your child that if she doesn't recognize the person at the door, she has the option of simply not answering it or talking through the door.
Don't schedule deliveries or repair people to come to your home when you aren't there. It's too much responsibility for a child, and it means they have to break the rule about not letting in strangers.
Phone calls are tricky, too. Some kids feel they are lying when they say “My parents can't come to the phone right now” when the parents aren't at home. Assure them that the statement is literally true. They can offer to take a message and tell the caller that the parents will return the call soon. They also shouldn't give out personal information on the phone, such as their names. Some children avoid the problem of answering calls from strangers by screening callers with an answering machine or with a caller ID feature on the phone.
If the unthinkable happens, and your child hears someone trying to break into your home, she should escape out another door and run for help. If escape isn't possible, the next option is for her to lock herself in a room, preferably with a phone, and dial 911. If possible, she should stay on the phone until help arrives; if not, she should still leave the phone off the hook after calling 911 because the emergency operator may be able to trace the call and send police to the right address.
Since situations involving strangers are many and varied, it's a good idea to do some role-playing with your child. Practice phone calls in which you try to get information from her and she learns how to respond. Do the same with visitors at the door. Your child will be more confident if she has practiced what to say.
If your child walks home from school, she also should be well versed in avoiding stranger danger on the street. For more information on this and other aspects of personal safety, see Early Lessons About Personal Safety, and /travel-safety/child-care/48195.html. Chapter 25, “It's My Body: Personal Safety.”-->
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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