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Latchkey Kids in Oklahoma — Safety and More

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Did you know Oklahoma has no age limit on leaving kids home alone?  Neither does Texas.  Many states require a child be at least 12 to be left home alone or to be a ‘latchkey kid.’  Since there are no official age limits in Oklahoma, there could be thousands of kids in Lawton who are home alone after school.  That means there are thousands of reasons to make sure they are safe and confident on what they should and should not do.

As a parent of a kid who has done the latchkey thing on more than one occasion, you worry from the second the bell rings to the second you get home.  So, we’ve compiled some info from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation which should help you decide if your child is ready to be home alone or if you need to find other arrangements.

If you are a grandparent or friend of a family who has latchkey kids — this is a great article to forward to them so they know as much as possible about how to protect their children.

FIRST STEP:  IS MY KID MATURE ENOUGH TO STAY HOME ALONE?  Does he or she have the personality, self-confidence, and judgment skills to accept this responsibility? Will the experience be positive and help build and enhance the child’s self-image, or will the experience promote additional anxiety in the child who may be afraid to stay alone? Having a family conference to discuss the arrangement is a good place to start. House rules, expectations of each family member, and a daily routine should be defined. At the end of the day, parents and guardians may also use the experience to have regular family meetings to help ensure the arrangement is still working and identify any alterations needing to be made.

IF YOU THINK IT’S TIME. . . .

  • Determine how long your child will be alone, accessible you or another trusted adult will be in case of an emergency, and safe the neighborhood is by contacting your local law-enforcement agency and checking the incidence and types of crime in your neighborhood.
  • Make sure you’ve set specific rules to be followed by your child while he or she is alone, and give your child specific instructions about how to reach you at all times. This should also include information about what to do if your child needs assistance and can’t reach you right away.
  • Remember you’re in charge, even if it is from a distance.

YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO KNOW:

  • His or her full name, address, and telephone number.
  • Your full name, the exact name of the place where you work, your work telephone number, and any pager or cellular telephone numbers you may have.
  • How to make a telephone call to request help in an emergency using 911 or the appropriate number(s) in your area.
  • How to carry his or her key so it is hidden and secure. Your name and address should not be on the key, and it may be wise to leave an extra key with a trusted friend or neighbor.
  • Not to walk or play alone on the way home, and never take shortcuts home.
  • What to do if he or she is being followed. If that happens your child should turn around, run in the opposite direction, and go to a designated place to get help and tell a trusted adult what happened.
  • To always check out the home before entering looking for such things as open, ajar, or broken doors and windows or anything that doesn’t look right. Go to a designated safe place to call for help if something doesn’t seem right.
  • To always lock the door after entering and make sure the house is secure.
  • To immediately check in with you upon returning home to let you know he or she has arrived safely.
  • To tell callers you can’t go to the telephone and offer to take a message instead of letting people know he or she is home alone
  • Not to open the door for or talk to anyone who comes to the home unless the person is a trusted family friend or relative, he or she feels comfortable being alone with that person, and the visit has been pre-approved by you.
  • To stay alert for true emergencies such as a fire or gas-main leak that would require the need to leave the home.
  • To check with you or another trusted adult if he or she is in doubt about anything.

YOU NEED TO PREP THESE THINGS:

  • A daily schedule of homework, chores, and activities for your child to follow.
  • A list kept close to the telephone including numbers for you, law enforcement, the fire department, an ambulance service, your doctor, a poison-control center, and a trusted adult who’s available in case of an emergency.
  • Written instructions about which, if any, appliances may be used; what to do in case of fire; and how to get out of the house if there is a fire.
  • A plan if you are detained and what to do if your child’s plans change.
  • Instructions about watching television, using a computer, talking on the telephone, and inviting friends over when you aren’t home.
  • Time to discuss the day’s events with your child. Make sure he or she knows it is okay to discuss anything with you, especially something that may have made him or her feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused in any way.

Does he or she have the personality, self-confidence, and judgment skills to accept this responsibility? Will the experience be positive and help build and enhance the child’s self-image, or will the experience promote additional anxiety in the child who may be afraid to stay alone? Having a family conference to discuss the arrangement is a good place to start. House rules, expectations of each family member, and a daily routine should be defined. At the end of the day, parents and guardians may also use the experience to have regular family meetings to help ensure the arrangement is still working and identify any alterations needing to be made.

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