Many working parents battle with school holidays, especially the long period between Christmas and the start of the new school year. Most people receive four weeks’ leave a year, but school holidays take up about 12 weeks of the year.
The maths clearly doesn’t add up. Even if both parents take their leave at different times, they’ll still need to find alternative care arrangements for younger children. Older kids will spend days at home unsupervised.
Leaving young people at home raises questions and concerns for parents. How long can they be at home alone? How can I ensure their safety? How will they occupy their time? What if someone comes to the house? Should I let them leave the house during the day to visit a friend? How secure will the house be?
Based on our soon-to-be-published findings on young offenders and previous research into home security (particularly burglaries), the following advice may provide guidance for concerned working parents during school holidays.
Most burglars reported they are motivated by opportunity and convenience. They look for unoccupied homes with open doors and windows in daylight hours. Teach your children how to operate door locks, ensuring front and back doors stay locked. But keep keys in locked doors in case they need to exit quickly.
Most burglars won’t try to break in if they think someone is home.
Most burglars avoid homes if they detect someone is present. So there is a fine line between making the house occupied, while ensuring children do not open doors to strangers. Ensure your children know your rules on letting someone in the home without your permission or answering the door to anyone they don’t know. Have a plan on how to respond to this.
It’s also worth ensuring that you:
While most parents believe their child would never engage in antisocial behaviour, the lack of supervision, structure and boundaries during school holidays can lead some children to push boundaries or even break the law, especially when encouraged by peers.
Our interviews, soon to be released, with children who had been charged with an offence indicated they committed the burglary during daylight hours in the company of friends and for consumable items.
Very few actually “planned” their offences. Most just saw the opportunity (goods left on display, doors and windows left open) while they were roaming the streets looking for something to do. And often they were responding to dares by friends. The most common tactic to determine whether to burgle a property was simply to knock on the door to see if someone was in.
So, if your child is allowed to go out while on school holidays, here are some parameters you can consider for their safety:
If you’ve allowed your child to leave the home when you’re not there, there are still things to consider when they return to an empty house:
By following these tips you can help keep your child safe and out of trouble when leaving them alone during the holidays.
Dr Natalie Gately is Criminology Courses Coordinator at Edith Cowan University.
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