In August, children across the U.S. return to school after a long, sun-filled break. The National Safety Council declares August Back to School Month as a way to make safety a priority for the academic year. Steps like staying up to date on vaccinations and wearing proper clothing on the playground can safeguard your child during school hours.
"Over 11.3 million children in the U.S. are unsupervised after school."
But what about after school? According to a 2014 report from the Afterschool Alliance, 11.3 million school-aged children go unsupervised in the hours following class. In this time, kids are at a higher risk of injury, and it's important to take steps to protect these youngsters.
Here are five especially handy tips:
1. Keep your child prepared
If you child is going to be unsupervised for any span of time, it's important they have a few pieces of information available. Create an emergency contact list, which should contain your cell phone number and those for a neighbor, emergency services and a close family friend. Keep this list in an easy-to-find spot, like the refrigerator or home phone (if you still have one).
2. Lay out some ground rules
When your child is home alone, they need to be aware of a few ground rules. One of the most important is that they shouldn't announce to anyone, friends or otherwise, when they're going to be home. Inviting people over can prove risky, and more unsupervised children can result in added injuries. If you have other, more specific rules, like restrictions on snacks or even chores to complete, keep a written list handy (like near the emergency numbers).
3. Teach your child awareness
Tom Patire is a long-time safety expert. In a blog for SafeWise, he said that one of the most important lessons for younger kids is staying aware when moving from school to home. If your child walks, bikes or takes the bus, he or she needs to pay attention to what's going on in the road and on the sidewalk. They also need to pay attention to any other risks, like steering clear of possible stranger danger or avoiding other kids who pose a bad influence.
4. Set up a routine
Just as kids need to be aware of their surroundings whenever they are unsupervised, they also need structure. Having something to do once they're home, like chores or homework, can prevent injuries by keeping kids productively busy. You may also want to outline a few activities children can't do, like sports. Or, just be sure that your child understands the value of safety while alone, like wearing the right gear and never playing indoors.
5. Have a safety net in place
Sometimes, no matter how safe the child may be, accidents will occur. They might bump their head while playing outdoors, or cut themselves preparing a snack. There's no need to fret, though, as you can rely on your nearest CareWell Urgent Care Center. With locations all across the Eastern Seaboard, you can depend on CareWell to handle almost any accidental injury your child might experience.