Make it a ritual for a child to lock the doors and windows. Whether they are coming in with you, or preparing for bed at night, be sure they not only know how, but are in the habit of locking up.
If they are old enough to stay at home alone, be sure they:
- don’t open the door to strangers
- know how to arm and disarm the alarm system
- know how, and when, to call 911
- have a family or neighbor to contact for help
- have a cell phone in case telephone lines are cut
Establish a plan for when they are, or aren’t, to answer the phone, and teach them what to say. For example, if they are home alone, you may want them to fib and say that you’re busy, instead of saying that you are not at home. Rehearse with them so they’ll know how to handle the situation.
Of course, we always tell our children not to talk to strangers. It may help to explain that bad people will pretend to be a plumber, a delivery person, or in distress to get access to them or your home. If they are frightened or “feel funny” about someone who has rung the door bell, who peers around the house, or doesn’t go away, they should phone an adult or 911 immediately.
Consider installing a door viewer at your child’s eye level. The standard height is much too high for most children and makes it useless. Yes, they may only be able to see a knee or a belt buckle until the person walks away, but even that may provide a clue of identity.
Last, make sure your children have a cellular phone to use in case of emergency. If the phone lines are cut or tampered with, they can still call a trusted neighbor or family member for help.
Good habits can last a lifetime.