Many parents struggle with the decision to leave a child at home alone. What is the right age? Does it depend on the child’s personality or level of maturity? Does the child have to be a certain age legally? (In Quebec, there is no minimum age).
But what if there was a course that taught kids the skills needed to face possible dangers? Enter Safety Tree, a company that offers courses to equip kids with the knowledge to make responsible decisions.
Since its launch in 2015, children across Ontario and Quebec have attended educational programs designed to help them steer clear of danger. Stephanie Belsher, a registered early childhood educator and company founder, says the courses teach young children how to recognize ‘tricky people’ and help prepare them to stay home alone.
My Safe Life, for kids ages 7-10, uses gaming, digital media, video, role-playing and repetition to teach children how to make smart decisions in their everyday lives. Topics include bullying prevention, basic first aid, online safety and more. However, Belsher says there is a special emphasis on helping children recognize ‘tricky’ people, a term used for describing potential predators.
“Telling kids not to talk to strangers is not enough given that most children are abused by someone they know,” Belsher says. “That’s why we teach children that tricky people can be anyone: a teacher, a coach, a neighbour or even a family member. We want to help them identify inappropriate adult behavior and teach them how and when to speak up.”
Home Alone Safety for Kids is a course that prepares children between 9 and 12 to stay at home for periods of time without parental supervision. Topics include online safety, sibling rivalry, handling emergencies and kitchen safety.
“The interaction aspect is crucial; during our courses the children are busy, working in groups, practicing skits,” Belsher says. “It’s not a matter of just telling kids about safety issues, they need to practice scenarios in order to become comfortable and confident in handling potentially dangerous situations.”
My Safe Life, Home Alone Safety for Kids and the Red Cross Babysitting Courses are offered at some of the Oxford Learning Centres. Safety Tree has also partnered with the YMCA’s of Quebec to offer classes at their facilities.
“The feedback from parents and kids has been amazing,” she said. “So many children who were uncomfortable with the idea of being home alone at the beginning of the class left feeling empowered and confident.”
The courses are seven hours and participants receive a certificate and safety manual. They are offered on weekends and pedagogical days. Private classes can be requested with a minimum of 12 students.
For more information, visit safetytreecanada.com.