Keep checking in

You've worked hard to prepare your child for the milestone of being home alone. Now you want to be sure your home-alone routine is working for all of you. You will need to keep checking in with your child to talk about how the plan is going. Does your child feel comfortable and secure during her time home alone? Is winter harder for her, when it gets dark earlier? What can you do to make those days easier?

Remember that being home alone may not work for all children. If your child tries it and doesn't do well, or if he feels especially lonely, you may need to come up with an alternative arrangement.

Remember, too, to praise your child for managing well without you.

The best way to insure a successful home-alone experience is to discuss any problems or concerns that may arise and work on shared solutions with your children.

It's a good idea to set aside an hour one day of the week or month to talk about all these issues as a family. Use this time not only to talk about scheduling and other home-alone concerns, but also to plan for times when you as a family can do something together.

Your child's experience home alone is likely to be a successful one if she is mature, ready, and if you've done a good job of preparing her to handle it. What you've given your child are lessons in responsibility and independence—tools she'll carry with her all her life.

POUT

What to do if: preparing your child to handle emergencies

"Fortunately, she has never had to handle an emergency. But I do feel my sixth grader would do well."

a texas parent

Children only become knowledgeable about handling crises and problems by being given a chance to practice when there is no crisis. The more you prepare your child for the many what ifs that can come up, the more confident your child will be about knowing what to do should one occur. Of course no parent can possibly anticipate every crisis. But by going through the following exercises with your child, you will get a sense of how he or she might handle different problems without you.

Here are some typical what if situations to practice with your child. As you go through the questions and suggested solutions, try to let your child do most of the talking. After you ask the question, let your child give an answer. Then talk about the answer together. 27

Though this is a "pretend" game, it's also a real way for you to find out more about your child's problemsolving skills. Help your child learn to distinguish between real emergencies, when an adult should be contacted, and daily crises that can be safely handled without adult help.

Maybe you'll want to make up some of your own what ifs. In any case, try making the exercises fun.

What if: The smoke alarm goes off downstairs while you're upstairs watching TV?

One answer: I should go downstairs immediately, so long as there is no sign of smoke. Then I should call my parent or backup adult who will tell me what to do. If I do smell smoke or see any sign of fire, I should grab my brother/sister/pet and leave the house immediately as we practiced in our fire drills. If I cannot find my pet easily and fast, I should leave the house immediately without it.

What if: Your younger sibling cuts his finger? What should you do?

One answer: I should get a bandage right away. Then I should put a clean towel or piece of paper towel on the cut, press it firmly until the bleeding stops, and apply the bandage. I don't need to call an adult if the bleeding stops right away. But I should call for help if it doesn't stop.

What if: You arrive home alone from school and find the front door or window unlocked or open when it's not supposed to be. What should you do?

One answer: I shouldn't go in. Instead, I should go to a nearby neighbor or backup adult for help.

What if: You miss the bus home from school? Whom do you call? What should you do?

One answer: Go back into school and call mom, dad, or my backup adult, who will tell me what to do. I shouldn't try to walk home without permission. I shouldn't take a ride from someone I don't know or my parents haven't told me to go with.

What if: You burn your finger making toast? What should you do?

One answer: For a minor burn, the best thing to do is to apply ice or very cold water to the burned area for two or three minutes. Then carefully dry the burn with a clean towel. If the burn still hurts, I should call an adult for help.

What if: The doorbell rings and you are afraid to answer it. What can you do?

One answer: I don't have to answer. I can look out the peephole to see who's there. If I don't recognize the person and I'm afraid to answer, I won't. I won't ever open the door to a stranger. If the person at the door won't go away, I'll call the police.

What if: It's 6:30 and mom or dad is an hour late. You're starting to get scared. What should you do?

One answer: Call my mom or dad at work. If I can't reach them, call my backup adult and explain that I'm home alone and feeling scared.

What if: Your younger brother or sister swallows something that makes him or her feel sick? Where would you call for help?

One answer: Call 911 or the Poison Control Center right away. And I should save the container that whatever he swallowed was in.

What if: Your little sister is playing upstairs. Suddenly you hear her scream. You run upstairs and find she's crying so hard she can't even talk. You find out she caught her finger in a door and it's so swollen it looks twice its normal size. What do you do?

One answer: Swelling can be the sign of a bad bruise or a broken bone. I should try to help her calm down and keep her hand still while I call an adult for help.

What if: You break a window playing ball and there is shattered glass all over the kitchen floor?

One answer: With my shoes on, sweep the broken glass over to the side of the kitchen floor where it's out of the way. Then stay away from the broken glass. Let a parent pick up the glass when he or she returns home.

Questions parents often ask about leaving a child home alone

'I know my son sometimes gets lonely being home alone. That's why it's important to help him really plan his time." a Minnesota mother

How do I enforce rules when I'm not there to see what's going on? Clearly, this is one of the biggest challenges for parents in leaving a child home alone. Say you've instructed your preteen not to invite friends of the opposite sex over after school. How do you know your child is following the rules? Or say you've limited your child to an hour of TV a day. Is she following the rule? It's a good idea to check in often with your child by phone, so that your child has a sense that you know what's going on even if you're not present. Remind your child of the rules when you call. Setting clear rules and expectations, and following through with them, is key. Remember that building trust is an ongoing process—it doesn't happen overnight.

It's important to show your child that you trust him. That way he'll act more trustworthy.

Confident Kids

Confident Kids

Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.

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