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Class prepares kids to stay 'Home Alone'

By C. Todd Lopez

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, Washington, D.C. (March 29, 2007) -- In the family film "Home Alone," the 8-year-old character played by then child star Macaulay Culkin is accidentally left behind in his Chicago home while his family goes on vacation. During the time it takes for his parents to return for him, young Macaulay is forced to defend his family's home against two burglars intent on stealing everything of value.

While it is unlikely such a scenario could happen on Bolling Air Force Base, there are still many challenges a young person could face when they are left alone at home for the first time.

In order to ensure children are prepared for those challenges, Bolling Air Force Base offers the "Home Alone" class to youth aged 9 to 12 years old. The "Home Alone" class is for those children that might be left at home alone for a few hours or more due to their parent's work schedule or even because their parents would like to go out to dinner.

The class helps ensure youth are prepared for the responsibility of being alone in a home, and are equipped to handle any emergencies that may arise, said Paddy Lynn, the Youth Center program director and class instructor.

"If you have a 9 and 12 year old, and they are home fixing something to eat, and one slices themselves, or one eats and starts choking, who do they call, do they know the number?" she asked. "That's one of the many scenarios that we try to cover with them."

Lynn said the course uses role playing and guided discussion to help kids learn about what to do when somebody comes to the door, how to answer the phone, who to call if there is a fire or other emergency, and even how to deal with the peer pressure that may come from friends to do things that are inappropriate when mom and dad are away -- things like smoking, drinking, or even not going home at all if parents won't be there after school is out.

Class attendees are given a checklist to take home after the class that they should complete with their parents. The list includes such things as knowing how to shut off the water or electricity, if need be. It also includes making sure that kids who are going to be alone for a few hours know what the house rules are, something maybe even more important than what can be taught in class, Lynn said.

"This role playing helps out," she said, "But they know what their parents want them to do."

The "Home Alone" class is next offered April 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the base Youth Center. The class is free of charge.