There are a significant number of families in which both parents hold jobs outside the home. This can create a few logistical problems where school-age children are concerned. Sometimes a child may remain after school in a supervised program, or a babysitter may be hired to cover the gap between school hours and work hours. Quite often, however, a child may have to spend a few hours without supervision until a parent arrives home. Because this child has his or her own key to the house, he or she is often referred to as a latchkey kid.
A latchkey kid may remain unsupervised for a few minutes or possibly a few hours. This does not mean the child is completely at the mercy of would-be intruders, however. Conscientious neighbors may agree to watch the exterior of the home, while the latchkey kid learns how to activate an alarm system or check the door locks. A child spending unsupervised time at home may also call a parent at work to verify his or her safe arrival from school. A typical latchkey kid is usually comfortable with dialing 911 or running to a neighbor's house during an emergency.
A latchkey kid may also learn how to prepare simple after-school snacks or perform a few chores until a parent arrives home. One of the best things for a latchkey kid to have is a standard after-school routine. It is perfectly normal for any child to feel anxious whenever parents are not around, but a latchkey kid may have to adjust to their absence very quickly. Having a routine, even if it is just watching television or playing a video game, can provide a much-needed distraction for a latchkey kid waiting for the security of a parent.
Some parents now use technology to help with their latchkey kid situation. Special cameras can now be installed in the home which provide real-time monitoring and remote viewing. Parents of a latchkey kid can now log into a secured website and observe their child from their workplace. There are also organized programs which provide support for both the latchkey kid and his or her parents. Some working parents may feel guilty for leaving their child alone and unsupervised, but the "latchkey kid" option is often the most viable solution for families with only a short gap between school and work schedules.