Latchkey Children

“Latchkey” children:

  • Are those who must stay at home alone taking care of themselves for some part of the day
  • Often feel lonely, bored and scared
  • Should have a clear understanding of why they must be left alone and what they may and may not do so that they have a decreased risk of injury and victimization

Promoting Self-Care Skills

  • Parents should focus on setting rules and limits, increasing levels of responsibility and communicating basic safety information. 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 phone or doorbell rings.
  • Parents are encouraged to teach their children:
    • To memorize their name and address, including city and state
    • To memorize their phone number, including area code
    • To use the phone to make emergency calls when needed
    • To check in with you, a neighbor, or other trusted adult immediately after arriving home
    • To never go into your home if there’s an open door or a broken window
    • How to work your home’s door and window locks and to lock them when they are at home alone
    • How to answer the doorbell and phone when they’re home alone
    • Not to go into anyone else’s home without your permission
    • To avoid walking or playing alone outside
    • That a stranger is someone neither you nor they know well
    • That if they feel they’re being followed, either on foot or by a car, to run to the nearest public place, neighbor or “safe house”
    • To tell you if anyone asks them to keep a secret, offers them gifts or money or asks to take their picture
    • To always tell you if something happened while they were away from you that made them feel uncomfortable in any way