Growing up, some of us were left at home alone. We would get home after school and wait until our parents did too. We were latchkey kids.
The term became popular back in the '70s. It refers to kids who come home from school to an empty house because their parents are still at work. The most recent census numbers show more than 4 million kids are home alone after school.
For some families, the cost of childcare is just too much. Latchkey is their only option. But for some parents, leaving their children without supervision raises concerns.
One of these anxieties is safety. When leaving your children alone at home, make sure you have set rules. For instance, they can't answer the door or use the stove when you’re not there.
Another concern is that your child could get lonely. If they are too young, leaving them alone could do more harm than good. This might make your kids feel lonely or depressed.
Parents are also concerned that their children could develop bad habits. Left alone, some kids could start to eat in an unhealthy way or not have the discipline do homework on their own.
But being a latchkey kid isn’t all bad.
Some parents say it gives kids some responsibility. You can give your kids chores like washing the dishes, cleaning their rooms and doing their homework. Hold them accountable for doing what’s on their list and reward them when they do it well.
Leaving your child alone at home will also give them some much-needed alone time. Psychology today says kids of all ages need to spend some time by themselves. It's supposed to get them comfortable with themselves and boost their self-esteem.
Leaving children alone could also take some pressure off of you. Knowing your child is safe at home reduces your stress levels. Depending on how old they are, they could even help start dinner.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your kid and how you want to prepare them as they grow up. It boils down to their maturity and how much you trust them.
In all instances though, accountability is key. Make sure to set guidelines that you both stick to.