Our kids are growing up with a lot of amazing stuff these days: Siri, iPhones, Google, GPS, social media…it’s a long list of cool gadgets and even cooler technologies. However, despite the wealth of “cool” stuff there is a serious lack of something in their lives at the same time: commonsense.
Although my kids are grown (the oldest at 22) and practically grown (the youngest at 17), I still shake my head at times at what I perceive as a lack of common sense—or perhaps good judgment is a better term. Whether it’s decisions they’ve made as new drivers or choices made as teens, there seems to be a bit of logic missing in their processing. And not just with my kids, but with many of the other kids I am around as well, such as their friends and cousins.
This wouldn’t be such a big deal if we didn’t live in a time when kids spend a lot of time home alone, either because both parents are at work or because they live in a single parent home (and that lone parent is at work). There’s nothing we can do about the fact that kids are home alone. We have to have incomes. Mortgages must be paid, food must be bought and cars must be fueled with gas.
But there is something we can do about this lack of commonsense or sound judgment: Educate our latchkey kids about home-alone safety. And it’s both our young ones and our teens that need it.
Things that occur to you or me as adults, they simply don’t occur to kids these days. From my oldest putting a hot pot directly onto the laminate countertop and melting it to my youngest trying to make a 135-degree turn into a parking space and denting another car because the turn was impossible to make, I sometimes question whether their brains are engaged at all. And I’m pretty sure my kids are pretty typical. So we have to spell it out for them when they are going to be home alone, whether that’s all afternoon every day, or just on Friday night while mom and dad go out for a movie.
Below are a few commonsense tips that you might think are too obvious to bring up with your brood. But maybe just bring them up anyway…to be on the safe side? (Pun intended!)
- Let us know they are home: Here’s a constant in my life, me constantly telling my youngest to let me know when she’s home and her forgetting most of the time. Even my fully grown eldest forgets to let me know when he is home once he gets back to his house–because even now, I suffer from mother-worry and need to know he got there safely. (See tips for keeping kids protected to and from school.)
- But don’t let anyone else know they are home—alone: No one needs to know the kids are home alone. Today we have to go way beyond the old advice about not telling callers on the phone they’re home alone. That’s not the only time they should keep it to themselves. They don’t need to tweet it, nor text this reality to friends nor say it via Snapchat nor post it on Tumblr or Facebook. They need to keep it to themselves. Period.
- Turn on the lights: If I had a dollar for every time I got home after my daughter and found the house all dark except for the light in her room, I would be retired somewhere exotic. Kids might get home while it’s broad daylight, but they have to pay attention to the fading light of day and make sure the house looks like someone is home…and better yet, more than one someone.
- Lock the doors: This seems like a no brainer to me as well, and my kids were better about this one, but still, we need to remind them to lock the doors behind them once they get home.
And even if we do get our kids well-trained to adhere by all four of these rules when we’re not around, we will worry. That’s when a home security system can help to not only keep the kids safe, but to give you as the parent peace of mind as well. With a home automation feature, you can set the lights to come on when you want and not worry about whether or not Susie will remember to do so. You can be alerted to the kids’ safe arrival home. And you can rest easy knowing the heat and smoke detectors will go off if the kids try to do some fancy cooking while you’re not around.
Maybe there’s no cure-all to imbue our children with commonsense, but at least there is technology that can somewhat take the place of it!