Whether we are talking about teenagers who spend increasingly more time away from their parents or young ones, children of all ages should know what to do in an emergency. It is not possible for a parent to always be by their side and protect them from all dangers. Leaving kids alone at home is an important step that requires preparation.
That is why it is important to raise kids with a degree of independence and teach them to look after themselves. In case of an emergency, every child should know the following: where to go, how to act, and who to call.
Here are some of the most important things every child must know when left at home alone.
Where to Go
Kids alone at home should be familiar with the environment and how to utilize it to their advantage. For example, where to hide in case of an earthquake.
Also, they should learn from a young age to always maintain a clear path to them. We all know how messy kids can get with their toys, but it is good do not have these block your way. After all, in case of an emergency time is crucial.
Show your kids all the different ways they can get out of the house if staying inside becomes dangerous for whatever reason. Here are just some of the things to consider:
- how to operate keys and locks
- where you hide the extra set of keys
- use the stairs, not the elevator
- how to get from their room outside
You can make a game out of it. If you have more kids, you can even turn it into a competition, timing them and awarding points for any extra measures they take. Did they take the house keys with them? Their bug-out-bag? Cellphone? To further increase the appeal of the exercise, award points that convert into rewards. Some ice cream will go a long way!
Safe Spaces Outside
Set up a safe place for them outside where they can seek refuge once they are out of the house. Make sure that the area you pick is away from trees and electrical wires. The spot can have a double function, serving both as a meeting point and as a safe space. Incorporate it in the game and add bonus points for arriving at the meeting place quickly.
Try it out after dark as well, so kids learn to navigate the area at night or in poor light conditions. Depending on how old your children are, try explaining the purposes of the exercise in a way they understand.
Safe Places Inside
In an emergency situation, you don’t always have to leave your house, nor are you always able to do so. Find the safest place for your child depending on the situation and practice when to go where. Again, put a fun twist on teaching them these things by turning it into a game. Award points for who gets to the designated safe spot in record time.
Once the kids become familiar enough with the exercise, you can start mixing stuff up. Use different starting points to practice their orientation. Once they know the drill like the back of their hand, prepare them for a nighttime scenario.
How to React
Once you are confident the children know where to go for safety, you can start teaching them how to act beyond the flight response. Begin by covering the basics, then as they grow up continue teaching them new tips!
Unless the child cannot carry their own bag (a baby for example), they should each have their bug-out-bag (BOB) with all the essentials. Include the following items:
- some water
- important documents
- emergency numbers
- small first aid kit
- comfort items
Teach the younger kids to just grab their bags and go. However, you should involve the older ones in packing a BOB. They might surprise you and teach you some tricks!
Basic First Aid
If they are old enough to scrape their knees, they are old enough to learn to pour some water on the scrape. As they mature, your children can learn to put on a Band-Aid, wash a cut or a scrape, put betadine on it, and bandage it.
Playing doctor is an effective way to teach them how to treat their burns and cuts. Let them stick Band-Aids on you and wrap your hand in bandages. You should use real medical items in the game to teach your kid exactly what to grab when.
What to Avoid
After you taught them what to do, teach them also what not to do. They should know the “don’ts” as well as the “dos”. Teach them not to use elevators and to check stairs, not to open windows in case of a fire, not to leave all the doors open, and so on. Insist that adults should not be doing any of these things either until the all-clear has been given.
Clearly, a child can’t do everything themselves. Give them the phone numbers of trusted adults and teach them to get help from neighbors if needed. To be extra safe, help them memorize the most important phone numbers.
The next section details who kids should call when facing danger. Knowing how to get help for themselves or others is vital. Also, emphasize that an adult should not ask a child for help unless there is no one else around, and even then, teach caution!
Who to Call for Help
As mentioned before, this entire section is about who your child should call if they are in trouble or following an emergency.
This might sound like a joke, but the idea to have a fun codeword to announce adults of an emergency can make the situation a bit less scary for the child. However, this can be useful for adults too. The codeword can change for each scenario, so they will quickly know how to react.
First of all, this refers to the parents, but it can be any family member or other adults who you and your kids trust. Make sure that the kids alone at home have your phone number memorized and that they know at least one other phone number for a trusted adult. Write a list of the other phone numbers and pack it in their BOB.
Teach them how to make a 911 call. Here are some of the most important information to provide to increase the procedure’s efficiency and response time:
- their name
- their location
- the nature of the emergency
When leaving kids alone at home, make sure they know to call the emergency services only if needed but not to fear the emergency responders.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it illegal to leave a kid at home alone?
Disclaimer: Preparedness Mama isn’t a lawyer website. The answer to these questions is provided to the best of our knowledge and research, but you should consult a law expert within your jurisdiction for any legal inquiries.
As far as we know, California is one of the states that doesn’t have any specific laws for leaving your kids at home. Some states, on the other hand, use strict enforcement when it comes to this matter, and the general rule of thumb is that a child shouldn’t be left alone in the house if they’re younger than 7 years of age.
Can I leave my 7 year old home alone for 15 minutes?
Again, this thing depends on each jurisdiction’s laws, but in most cases, you definitely can. Let’s be honest, a seven year old should be smart enough to take care of oneself, especially if it’s just for 15 minutes. You should follow the advice written in this article above the FAQ line and apply it accordingly. Teach your child everything that you can so that you can remain calm when leaving them alone.
At what age can a child babysit siblings overnight?
For all intents and purposes, most experts agree that 16 years is a good time to leave your child unattended overnight. And it is also at this age where they can be responsible and mature enough to babysit younger siblings without worries.
Can a 12 year old babysit a 5 year old?
While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend a 12 year old to babysit younger children for extended periods of times, yet if we’re talking about a single day or afternoon, then, depending on the level of education you’ve provided, a 12 year old should be more than capable of taking care of a 5 year old.
Wrap It Up
Here are the basics of how to prepare your children for looking after themselves when being alone at home. Did we miss anything? Would you like to add something? Have a go at the comments section and let us know!