Smart Summer Week 8: Who is at your house right now? Are you sure? Published: Monday, August 01, 2011, 4:17 PM, By Kalamazoo Gazette staff

KALAMAZOO — Parents have a responsibility to educate and prepare their children to assume the responsibilities of being “home alone.”

That’s why, this week, the Kalamazoo Substance Abuse Task Force asks the following:

Who is at your house right now? Are you sure?

This is the eighth topic in a series being presented each week during the task force’s 12-week Smart Summer campaign. The campaign is intended to increase awareness among parents and caregivers of youths to emphasize how to prevent high-risk behaviors among their children.

According to the task force, children are ready to assume the responsibility of being at home alone at different times, based on their maturity level. It is important for parents and caregivers to set house rules, establish routines and educate their children about emergency procedures before they leave them alone.

“There are things to consider as you are determining whether or not your child is ready to be left alone,” the task force advises. “Experts believe that 12 is the youngest age that a child should be left alone, and 15 before they can care for siblings.”

Maturity of the child must be considered. “Can they think things through, plan ahead and make good decisions?” asks the task force. “Is the neighborhood a safe one? Are there people nearby who can be trusted to help watch out for the child?”

How do the children feel about being left alone? Are they nervous? If so, they may not be ready.

In addition, it’s important to consider the length of time a child will be left alone, the task force notes. A child may be fine for an hour or two, but a whole day may be too long.

Monitoring, which has been emphasized during this Smart Summer campaign, continues to be very important during this time.

Parents and caregivers need to check in to make sure that house rules are being followed. They also should positively acknowledge their children when they make good choices during this time.

The task force offers parents and caregivers the following as some suggested house rules:

Don’t allow other children to come over when you are not home.

Establish a protocol on how to answer the phone and door when you are not there.

Establish limits on computer, phone and TV time.

Set a routine in which all doors are locked behind you.

The child should call a parent or designated person at a certain time to “check in.”

Leave some household chores that children can help with, such as pet care, dishes, etc.

Post emergency numbers and contacts, including family members and family doctor’s name and number.

Keep a basic first aid kit for emergencies.

Review emergency escape routes, meeting places and plans for sudden illness or injury.

Follow this weekly feature on Mondays through Aug. 29 in the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Date: Monday August 1, 2011
Source: Kalamazoo County Substance Abuse Task Force

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