Monday, February 1, 2016

The One Thing You Need to Do Before Leaving Your Kids Home Alone

Exciting day for you, readers, because today I'm going to share a useful parenting tip. Generally speaking, this is not that kind of blog.

However, we did something really great last week and I wanted to brag share. My older three children are occasionally left home alone, and we've talked about the rules but I was feeling uneasy because there were some things I'd never directly addressed.

So last week, we sat down for a Family Home Evening (if you aren't Mormon, that's like a weekly family meeting) on being home alone.

Inspired by an article at BonBon Break, I wrote 6 categories (doorbells & phones, who to call for help, first aid, emergencies, friends & playing outside, and appliances & devices ) on slips of paper. We talked about each one as the kids pulled them out of a jar one at a time.

The One Thing You Need to Do Before Leaving Your Kids Home Alone -- A simple no-prep activity to make sure your kids know everything they need to know about staying home by themselves.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Yeah, it was super-fancy. Follow me on Pinterest.

1. Doorbells & Phones

I told my kids to ignore the doorbell ringing. Let them think there's nobody home. I don't think anyone has rung our doorbell except the FedEx guy for the last 3 weeks anyway and he just ding-dong-ditches, so the point is kind of moot.

If the phone rings, I want them to answer it (after all, it could be me calling and I don't want to have a heart attack if no one answers.) But we role played phone conversations (yes, I forced them to make a "phone" with their thumb and pinky and talk to me like I'm a stranger) and how to say "Mom/Dad can't talk right now, can I take a message?" I made sure that they said "can't talk," not "isn't here."

2. Who to Call for Help

I have a Post-it note taped to the base of the phone with mine and Phillip's phone numbers, but I also need to add two of our close-by friends who they can also call if they can't reach us. That was my homework from this Family Home Evening.

3. First Aid

Most cuts or scrapes will be fine if the kids wash them off with water and stick a Band-Aid on them.

If something just won't stop bleeding, we showed them how to grab some paper towels and press and hold the wound. If it still doesn't stop, we told them to call Phillip or I to ask what to do. (With our kids' personalities, we know they'd be prone to freaking out and calling 911 at the sight of blood so we thought calling us to ask first would be a good idea for our family. Your mileage may vary.)

If they can't get a hold of us and they're really worried that the person needs to go to the hospital, they can call 911. Which brings me to the next category.

4. Emergencies

We talked about a variety of emergencies, none of them extremely likely but all good to know.

  • 911: Solely for emergencies that require the police, a fire truck, or an ambulance coming to the house. Not for sibling fights, homework help, or the toilet backing up. (The kids loved learning that someone had called for getting the wrong cheeseburger at Burger King.)
  • Fire: Yell to everyone to get out of the house, go to the neighbors (name a few specific neighbors,) and tell them what's going on. They'll either be able to put it out or call 911.
  • Toilet/sink/bathtub overflowing: We took the kids to the bathroom, showed them the plunger, and had each of them physically try it (I know, I know, this is sounding like a rocking Family Home Evening in the Evans house right now.) If that doesn't work, we took them to the basement and showed them how to shut off the water, then told them to call us.

5. Friends & Playing Outside

It depends on where you live, but I personally feel okay about the kids playing outside while I'm gone, as long as they stay in our yard. No riding bikes on the street, going to a friend's house to play, or wandering around in the woods.

If a friend comes over, they need to tell them they can't play until an adult comes home. (I did tell them it was okay to tell a neighbor friend I'm not there, just not a stranger on the phone.)

6. Appliances & Devices

I'm fine with the kids using the toaster and microwave without supervision, but not the oven or stove. We stressed not putting anything metal or metal-colored in the microwave, and if anything starts making sparks they should open the door right away.

They can use the computer or iPad to visit homework-related websites, type stories on their Google Docs accounts, or play games on specific apps and websites they commonly use and we approve of. But no Googling when we aren't home! They should type the URL of a website instead of doing a search for it.

It probably won't be the most fun-filled Family Home Evening ever written on the fleshy tablets of the kids' minds, but if you end it with ice cream they probably won't revolt. Maybe they will even have learned something.

At the very least, I have a lot more peace of mind now knowing that we formally sat down and covered all the rules together.

Are you beginning to think about leaving kids home alone after school or while you run errands? This simple activity will teach children everything they need to know about safety, rules, and guidelines so you can feel confident about leaving kids home by themselves. #parentingtips #kids

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Chaun said...

This is a great idea! Hopefully I'll remember this when the toddler gets older.

Unknown said...

I have a no cooking at all, no outside rule for when my 9 yo is home alone but the older ones can use the microwave and play in the front yard. I do still worry about snakes in the summer time and tell them to check for them. Trampoline and roller blades are off limits when I am gone for everyone. The few people who come to our house are terrified of the dogs and don't make it to the doorbell. I probably haven't discussed what to do in case of overflowing water enough.

Katy said...

Very nice! I've done the bare-bones of this with my kids, but now I'm inspired by your awesomeness to be more thorough. And, no, that wasn't sarcasm. :)

Unknown said...

Hmm, I could probably stand to be a little more thorough about this with my kids! Thanks for the tips.

Anonymous said...

This is a really great idea. You covered all the basics and really helped them understand how to be safe, happy, and healthy while you're gone.

Jenny Evans said...

Good idea. I hope nobody takes what I say as gospel - everyone's rules are going to differ based on what makes sense for their kids and their house and situation. I sort of panicked when I realized I'd never showed my kids where the water shut-off is, and felt so much better once I'd finally done it!

Jenny Evans said...

Sarcasm? From you? I wouldn't dream of that.

Jenny Evans said...

Now hopefully it sticks!

mothers shadow said...

This is a GREAT post Jenny and so useful! I love the idea of putting the categories in a jar for the kids to draw out and then talk about. FABULOUS!!!

PurpleSlob said...

I thought you were gonna say "Feed them". haha You can tell where my mind is!
Great ideas!

Anonymous said...

Here in UK until my youngest child went to senior school (age 11) (so other two were 12 & 13) they didn't stay home alone as eldest had ADHD. I left them three times while I was working and the boys (oldest and youngest) fought each other one with broom handle the other the mop handle. Teachers saw the bruises on eldest and social worker got involved and I had to go back on benefits and give up work. Lynne

Jenny Evans said...

Oh, my goodness! I recall a certain incident where my brother dented my locked door with a hockey stick when we were kids home alone, but only the poor door faced any consequences!

Moonofsilver said...

My only offspring is 6 months old so I hadn't even thought about this but boy I wish I could escape sometimes without him needing to nurse every 2 hours :)

Jenny Evans said...

I've been there too and it's true - if you nurse (and don't pump or supplement) you're pretty much tied at the hip for... well, let's not talk about how long.

Let's Talk Mommy said...

This is fantastic and I will be book marking so when they are old enough I can pull it out again. Good for you for sitting them down and formally talking about it all. That's what saves alot of accidents from happening. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

Unknown said...

What a brilliant idea. Will definitely be visiting this again when our little is old enough. Think it would be a good idea to put some numbers in the phone memory to save having to dial a whole number too. #sharewithme

Rachel said...

Good job covering all the need-to-knows!! My parents started leaving us home alone with me as babysitter for all the little ones for shorter periods of time (dates, errands, meetings) when I was 11 (there were 6 of us back then). The very first ever time they left us all home alone....drumroll please....

They were gone a total of about 20 minutes on a quick errand. Rebekah, who was a toddler and has always been the 'difficult child' in the family...just so happened to throw, with all of her might, a glass bowl of water on the kitchen floor as Lizzy (9 years old at the time), was walking across the kitchen. Of course the bowl shattered and of course lizzy stepped on a broken piece and the blood from her foot mixed with all the water on the floor to make it look like she was surrounded by a giant pool of blood. And then Mom and Dad walked in. I was really hoping to get the glass and blood cleaned up before they arrived but it was not to be.

When I was 12...Mom and Dad changed jobs and had to go to school for 4 months. We were all, obviously, Mom left me home in change of taking care of all the kids and getting homeschool done for the day while they were in school. And...they brought home company 4 times a week so we had to make company dinners and have them ready by the time Mom and Dad got home (I swear, it sounds like I grew up in the 1950s or something but this was 2003). Actually, those 4 months mostly went pretty smoothly although there was the time I had to get everyone out of the house and call Dad because the house was filled with smoke because Isaac had decided to use the microwave as a 5-minute timer for his math quiz since he could find the timer, had put a mini-poppyseed muffin in the microwave, and it had burned to a smoky crisp. I also still have a burn on my arm from taking a dish out of the oven for one of those company dinners. We also invited neighborhood friends over in the afternoon after they got out of school, and after we put the two baby sisters down for naps, we'd shut all curtains and turn out all lights and run all over the house playing "hide and seek in the dark" as quietly as possible and try not to wake up the babies.

Moral of the story...we loved being left home alone as kids, it always gave us the most exciting memories...

Jenny Evans said...

I simultaneously love this and am terrified at the same time...

From the things you've shared about your childhood (walked to extra-curricular activities, etc) it does sound like you grew up in the 50s. That must be why I love it so much. I've actually been told before that I parent like it's 2 generations ago. I take that as a compliment, whether or not it was originally meant to be one.

Meredith said...

I'm just starting to leave my oldest home alone for like 30 minutes or so, and it always makes me nervous. We've covered most of these with her, but I need to go more in depth. Great list!