Summer is a time when everyone tends to relax, take trips, visit more public places and have more free time. Summer tends to be a special time when time with family and cherished memories are created. However, it is also a time when parents and caregivers need to be as vigilant as ever about the safety of their children. This is especially true since the free time that is the result of children being out of school is not something most parents get from their employer. Thus many children are left at home alone for more time while the parent works in the summer months. While the movie series ‘Home Alone‘ was a comedy, the reality of home alone can be a true horror flic if care is not taken.
The Center For Missing And Exploited Children found in a study that most abductions occur during the hours of 2:00 -7:00 p.m., a time when many children are alone in their home as their parents are at work or running errands. The Centers most comprehensive statistics are from 1999 where it found there were 800,000 attempted abductions that year. Luckily, more than 80% of the children were able to get away because they ran, kicked, screamed, and in some cases, a bystander intervened.
As a parent/caregiver the question becomes what can we do to help protect our children and help them protect their selves? Some of the tips we have collected for the home include:
- Make sure your child is mature enough to stay home alone. Ages range from 12 to 15 for this. If there is more than one child you will need to adjust this especially if you expect the older child to watch and manage a younger sibling.
- Teach the child their full name, address, and home telephone number. Make sure they know your full name.
- Make sure children who are left alone know their surroundings.
- Take them on a tour of their neighborhood, point out safe houses where trusted adults are well-known.
- Map out a route for your children if they need to walk somewhere.
- Leave the child a list of phone numbers they can quickly access and call in an emergency.
- Role play a scary situation or intruder in the house with your child. Talk through what they can do and practice it. Situations can include a strange phone calls, someone lurking about, fire in the house, falls, cuts, pool accidents and calling 911.
- Give the child enough tasks and entertainment options so they stay in the house while you are gone. Provide rewards when appropriate.
- Teach them how to use door and window locks.
- Call your child a couple of times through the day.
- Teach them how to answer the door or avoid answering the door if someone they do not know should come to the house.
- Talk to your child and make sure you know how the day went and if there was anything strange that happened. Listen well and remember to ask lots of questions. Sometimes the smallest oddity can give you a clue that something is not right.
- If you can mix-up your schedule so you don’t always leave or return at the same time.
If you know a family member, friend or neighbor who has children that are left alone it can be a great help if you offer to periodically check in with the children or go past the house to make sure everything is fine. You might also create a code word that you both know so the child isn’t tempted to go with a stranger who has a convincing story. However, know that most abductions and crimes against children, tweens and teens are committed within 1/2 mile of the home and by someone they know and usually trust.