(Victor Valley )— As children head back to school, many of them will be spending time home alone after school until their parents get home from work.
The American Red Cross has steps parents and children can take to make these after-school hours safer and less stressful.
“The first thing parents need to decide is if their child is old enough to stay home alone,” said Dr. David Markenson, chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and pediatric expert. “If not, other options include after-school child care, programs at schools and youth clubs, or enrolling the child in youth sports programs.”
“When a child is old enough will vary from child to child based on their individual development, comfort and maturity. Parents and guardians should consider their child’s maturity level and ask if he or she would be comfortable being left alone for an extended period of time,” Markenson added. “If so, parents and guardians should develop a home safety plan and discuss it and practice it with their children.”
The Red Cross recommends that parents and guardians take the following steps if a child will be home alone after school.
If the child is going to go home after school, it’s a good idea to have them call to check in when they get home. For an older child, set ground rules about whether other kids can come over when the parents are absent, whether cooking is an option, whether they can leave the home.
Other steps that parents and guardians can include in their home safety plans:
- Post an emergency phone list where children can see it. Include 9-1-1, parents’ work and cell numbers, numbers for neighbors, and the numbers for anyone else who is close and trusted.
- Identify neighbors whose home your child can go to in case of an emergency that requires your child to leave your home.
- Practice an emergency plan with the child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Write the plan down and make sure the child knows where it is.
- Make sure the first aid kit is stocked and stored where your children can find it; keep it out of reach of young children.
- Let children know where the flashlights are kept. Make sure that the batteries are fresh, and that the child knows how to use them.
- Remove or safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, ammunition, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors, and other objects that can cause injury.
- Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, car-care fluids, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
- Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of the reach of children.
- Limit any cooking a young child can do. Make sure at least one approved smoke alarm is installed and operating on each level of the home.
- Limit the time the child spends in front of the television or computer. Activate parental controls. Use programs that limit the sites children can visit, restrict chat sites and allow parents to monitor online activity.