Tips for Latchkey Kids
Latchkey children are those who must stay home alone, taking care of themselves for some part of the day. Experts estimate that from five to twelve million children between the ages of five and thirteen are at home alone for some period of time every day. Many of their parents either cannot afford child care, or none is available.
Children in self-care are about three times more likely than those supervised by adults to be victimized, be involved in accidents, or to engage in delinquent behavior.
Some children enjoy caring for themselves and happily accept the added responsibilities. Others may be lonely, bored, or scared. For all of them, the self-care experience is an opportunity for parents to discuss all aspects of safety and crime prevention, as well as to build their children's self-esteem, confidence, and competence. Studies show that a close relationship with parents may decrease or moderate any negative effects of self-care.
To promote self-care skills, parents should focus on setting rules and limits, increasing levels of responsibility, and communicating basic safety information. If children understand why they must be left alone and what they may and may not do, their risk of danger - and their parents'; concern - may be greatly reduced.
If your children are to be in charge of themselves at home, discuss the routines they are to follow - household chores, pets to tend, homework, family policies on visiting friends or having friends visit them, and what to do when the telephone or doorbell rings. If you are not going to be coming home at your regular time, let your children know!