In today’s world, it’s not uncommon for parents to have to work late, or for there to be single-parent households or homes where both parents work fulltime.
In any case, many teens come home to an empty house and have to take care of themselves until their parents get back. It’s a good opportunity for teens to learn independence and you want to give them trust and space to grow, but you also want to make sure nothing goes catastrophically wrong. Here are some tips…
1. Get a Well-Reviewed Video Doorbell
Doorbells with built-in cameras are a godsend for teens who stay home alone after school, and for their parents. Teens can see who is knocking at the door and decide whether or not they want to answer without alerting anybody outside that somebody is home.
Parents can get alerts from the doorbell when their teens get home after school so they know everyone’s home safe. Ring is pretty much the go-to brand in this space, their doorbells are super easy to install and configure. They have a few to choose from so make sure that you compare Ring doorbells before grabbing one.
2. Hide a Spare Set of Keys
If your kids forget their house keys or lose them during the day, make sure they have another way to get into the house. Whether it’s a digital door lock that they can unlock with a code or a house key that’s hidden somewhere, they need to be able to get inside without you making an extra trip home!
Heads up: Putting a house key under the doormat is kind of cliche, and probably the first place any potential intruder would look, so skip that and find somewhere a bit more clever.
3. Signs to Avoid the House
If you see anything that seems out of place at your home, don’t go inside. To continue the smart home advice topic, a security camera can be helpful in the unlikely event that there’s a burglar in the home, a fire, or anything else that could be dangerous.
Even without any fancy tech, you can tell if a window or door has been broken, if there’s smoke, or if something just seems off . Your teen should have a plan of somewhere safe to go nearby, and they should know who to call and how to handle a number of different emergency situations. Give them some credit, teach them how to handle these situations (do some research of your own first, too) and then know that you’ve done everything you can to prepare them for these situations.
4. Having a Schedule
This isn’t to protect against an inherent danger like the other things we’ve discussed thus far, but having a schedule and learning time management skills is still important for latchkey kids. If they’ve got an hour, two hours, or more between getting home and having an adult there, then you’ll need to figure out a system to keep them on track as far as homework and chores are concerned.
Since you aren’t there to enforce the schedule, it still puts trust in them and gives them the freedom to tackle chores or other jobs at any point within that time window.
You could also allow them to play and enjoy themselves while you’re away, as long as they understand that homework has to get done once you’re home. This is a little life hack to give you a bit of peace and quiet after work while they’re studying. As long as the homework’s getting done, who cares if it’s done in the early evening or later on?
5. Have a List of Contacts in Case of Emergency
Depending on your job, you might not always see a phonecall or text from your teen right away. Having a list of contacts on the fridge or somewhere else, not to mention having them programmed into your family members’ phones, is a good way to have a support system.
If there’s a plumbing emergency or other stuff like that’s urgent and can’t wait until you get home, you can teach them how to deal with these sorts of things. It’s a big responsibility, but so is staying home alone!
Also, keep numbers of any nearby family members and family friends, or friendly neighbors who your kids can reach out to if there’s an emergency and you can’t get home right away or can’t take the call.