In a truly perfect world, parents everywhere would be home to greet children returning from school each day. Yet because of work and other commitments, not every parent has that kind of luxury. In fact. according to a 2014 report by the Afterschool Alliance, 11.3 million school children go unsupervised between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. In that time, there are plenty of opportunities for children to injure themselves, be it from playing in the backyard, running around the house or preparing an after-school snack.
“Over 11.3 school children are unsupervised between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.”
Even if you can’t physically be at home, there are still ways to keep your child safe. Here are a few tips to teach your child if they are among these so-called latchkey kids:
Create a route home: Part of staying safe at home is ensuring that your child gets there in the first place. Work with your child to create a route to and from home and make sure he or she follows it and avoids any potentially dangerous shortcuts. If possible, have your child walk home with a neighbor or friend even if it’s for only a small portion of the actual trip. Finally, talk with your child so he or she knows exactly how to react in case a stranger approaches him or her.
Give your child a key: Make sure that your child has a key to the house and that he or she stores it in a safe location. You never want to keep any personal information, like a name or address, on the actual key, lest your child loses it. Also, be sure your child knows where a spare key might be hidden and that he or she never shares that vital piece of information with anyone, not even teachers or friends.
Provide emergency information: It’s a good idea to post the numbers to the police and fire departments somewhere convenient like a refrigerator or family message board. You may also want to ensure that there is an emergency contact – like a family friend or neighbor – that your child can reach in case of any emergencies. However, beyond those circumstances, it’s important that your child doesn’t use the phone while unsupervised, as this can attract the attention of certain strangers.
Create a first-aid kit: Ideally, any child left unsupervised should know to call a parent or emergency contact following an accident or other injury. However, all children should be prepared with a first-aid kit just in case. According to the American Red Cross, the average case should contain:
- Antibiotic ointment packets.
- Roller bandages.
- Adhesive cloth tape.
- Compress dressings.
- A bottle of aspirin.
Don’t forget to regularly check the expiration dates of the materials inside your family’s kit.
Create schedules: Just because your child is home alone doesn’t mean he or she has to be entirely unsupervised. Create a schedule of tasks to accomplish – like homework and household chores – which will help to structure your child’s time and reduce the likelihood of injury. If possible, provide your child with a schedule of your activities. This will help him or her know where you are – like driving or at the office – at any given time and how to contact you if anything arises.
In case your child is ever injured while at home, you can always take him or her to a CareWell Urgent Care location. With offices across the East Coast, CareWell‘s team of licensed physicians can handle most injuries and get your entire family back home in no time.