From the empty school supply shelves at local stores to the bus-lined neighborhood streets, it’s obvious that school is back in session across Michigan. For many youngsters, this means new teachers, new subjects, new friends and new experiences. In the case of teens and tweens, that experience may involve the added responsibility of coming home from school before their parents get home from work.
While exciting, this newfound freedom can mean added anxiety for parents and children, alike. We spoke with Derrick Jackson, director of community engagement for the Wayne County Sherriff’s office, about ways to ease the concerns and start the school year off right. Below is his advice:
- Set basic ground rules – Ensure your child knows who to call in a given situation and establish rules for who (if anyone) should be let in while your child is home alone. Many kids will come home and head straight to the fridge so it’s also a good idea to outline what’s safe to cook and what’s not. For example, the time before mom and dad come home may not be the best hour for students to practice their “MasterChef Jr.” skills.
- Have a safety talk – Discuss when to dial 911 and walk through basic first aid tips. “One thing that I do with my daughter is talk through different safety scenarios so that we can figure out the best way to respond to a situation before it happens,” Jackson said.
- Check in – Keep the lines of communication open and call your child at specific intervals, such as when they arrive at home or while you’re on your way home. This is a good way to avoid coming home to any surprises. There are also a number of great apps that let you know when your child has arrived at a given destination. In many ways these are easier than texting back and forth or waiting on a response.
- Enlist a trusted neighbor – If you have a strong relationship with a nearby neighbor, let him or her know when your child is expected home and ask your neighbor to keep an eye out.
- Give more responsibility as it’s earned – Once you’ve established your child is comfortable coming home and tackling homework, consider adding new activities to continue to build confidence.
- Add a home security system – Like our phones and devices, home security has gotten smarter over the past few years. Solutions like XFINITY Home allow you to take advantage of the 24/7 professional monitoring and advanced security to keep your family safe while you’re home or away. “Cameras are proven to change behaviors,” Jackson said. “Exterior cameras can be a deterrent to criminals and interior cameras can encourage people inside the home to do the right thing.”
- Remove added risks – Things like alcohol, firearms and old prescriptions can pose added risks. Ask yourself “How can I make my home as safe as possible while I’m away?” and eliminate any negative temptations.
- Chores! – Giving kids a list of tasks to complete can alleviate anxiety by giving them something to focus on in the event they don’t have homework or they breeze through algebra Doogie Howser-style.
- Use technology – The average household now has more devices than people and that number is poised to keep growing. While connectivity is great, it can be a distraction from completing the homework and chores mentioned above. With XFINITY xFi, you can create time controls so no one is surfing when they shouldn’t be and set parental controls to protect your student from inappropriate content.
- Know your child – Whether it’s your child’s first time or hundredth time at home alone, make sure you’re clued into his or her comfort and maturity level. “This was my daughter’s first year being home alone so at first it was an adjustment. Now we’ve all gotten the hang of it and it’s much simpler,” Jackson added.
The trip home from school can also have a safety impact. Help keep you child safe with more tips from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).