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New-found freedom
With summer comes new risks for kids
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 No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.

School is out and this means time for fun in the sun for schoolaged children, but they also signal a shift in the family’s daily routine. Are you considering leaving your child home alone during the summer instead of taking him/her to a sitter? Safe Kids Kansas and the Department for Children and Families have some tips on how to decide if your child is ready to be home alone.  

DCF has some general guidelines to help you make the decision when your child is ready to be home alone:

• Age — Young children from 06, should never be left alone for even a short period of time. Kids 69 can be left alone for only short periods of time. Children 10 and older can be left alone, depending on other factors.

• Length of time alone— Consider whether your child is ready to spend the whole day alone or if only a couple of hours is more appropriate.

• Maturity— Consider your child’s ability to fend for himself/herself and your child’s level of common sense. Certainly, children with developmental disabilities and emotion issues should be monitored closely.  

• Knowledge of emergency preparedness— Ask your child if he/she knows what to do in the event of a fire, tornado, stranger at the door, etc. Ask “what ifs.”

• Availability of adults— Children must know how to reach a responsible adult at any point in the day for any reason, even if it’s just to provide reassurance if the child becomes fearful.

• Insecurity— Children should feel comfortable with the idea that they will be home alone. The more fearful he/she is, the less likely he/she will be able to respond appropriately to emergency situations.

• Behavior—children who misbehave, vandalize, steal, intimidate neighbors, set fires or are a danger to themselves need close supervision.

Each year, more than 3 million kids ages 14 and under get hurt at home – and more than 2,000 children die from unintentional injuries in the home. Fire, suffocation, drowning, choking, firearm and poisoning are among the top leading causes of  unintentional home injury death for this age group. 

Safe Kids Kansas also recommends parents take the following precautions to ensure your child’s safety:

• Carry a cell phone and keep it turned on. Make sure your children know where you will be and

what time you will return. In addition to your cell phone number, post emergency numbers (police, fire, EMS, doctor and the poison control hotline, 8002221222) and a friend or

neighbor’s number by every phone in the home. Teach your child their home address so they can tell emergency personnel where to dispatch assistance, if necessary.

• Prepare a snack or meal in advance — preferably one that does not need to be heated. If your children will need to cook, remind them never to leave an oven or stove unattended while cooking and to turn it off when they are finished.

• Make sure potentially poisonous or hazardous household items are locked up out of reach — especially medications, matches, lighters, weapons and cleaning products.  

• Review your family’s emergency plans and make sure your children know what to do if the smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector goes off. Practice two escape routes from each room.  

• Review and practice plans for other types of emergencies, such as severe weather. Ensure they know where to go for emergency shelter.

• Show your children where you keep your first aid kit and how to use basic first aid supplies.

Summer is a time of freedom for kids. Let’s also make it a time free of injuries.

Dale Hogg