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Latchkey Kids: Have Times Changed?

5 Mar 2014 – 06:02 AM EST

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Were you a latchkey kid? Not sure what that even means? It’s the term given to kids who are home alone after school because their parents work. They have their own key, get themselves home from school and supervise themselves until mom or dad get off work.

Almost every working parent faces the decision sooner or later. Children age out of daycare or it becomes too expensive. School is out at three and most people don’t get off work until five.

So what do you do if you have to leave your child alone during those hours? Here are some ways to prepare them.

Check the laws.

Your first step should be check the laws in your state. It varies from state to state on how old a child can legally be left home alone without the parent risking charges. The average age range varies from 8 – 13.

Explain the responsibility.

Let your child know that you’re trusting them with a huge responsibility that takes great maturity because you know they can handle it. Give it a few practice rounds. Leave your child home alone while you go to the store or out to run errands before making the transition.

Go over the rules.

Suggestions for rules include:

  • Come right home after school.
  • Text parent to let them know you arrived safely.
  • Never answer the door.
  • Don’t tell anyone you’re home alone.
  • No using the oven or stove.
  • No friends allowed over.

Reassure them of safety precautions

Have a plan. Tell them to call Grandma or a neighbor who can get their quickly if they are feeling unsafe. Put emergency contact numbers right by the phone. Make sure everyone at your office knows to put your child through immediately in the case of an emergency.

Give your child lots of attention when you’re home.

Being home alone during those hours can be lonely. Have dinner together as a family. Ask about your child’s day. Watch your son‘s little league practice or daughter’s gymnastics lesson. Tuck them in at night.

Being a working parent is tough. There’s a lot of guilt involved. However, children who are given responsibility often shine because of it.

Do you have a latchkey kid?