There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a hectic workday and getting an “urgent” call for your teen or tween child that starts like this:
“Um…so…I kind of lost my keys. Can you come home and let me in?”
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to quell an irate growl, or at least temper it into a grudging sigh. Yes, your latch key child lost his keys.
And you’ll have to put aside that overdue project you’re working on and tell your boss that you need to skip the important meeting at three o’clock with that new client, because your son forgot his keys, and he’s standing out in the cold.
We’ve all been there, and many of us have tried it every trick in the book: friendly reminders, sticky notes on the door, and giving them a brightly-colored keychain so they can find it in their “disaster area” of a room when they lose it.
How can you get your forgetful teen or tween child to remember to bring his or her keys to school—and bring them home, too?
Here are several ideas that you might try:
Put one of those spring-loaded clips onto her keychain and clip the keys to the strap of your child’s purse or backpack every night. A safer option might be to see if there’s already a clip inside a backpack pocket intended to attach keychains to, or if there might be some kind of loop inside a pocket where you can clip the keys. That way it’s always with your child, but can’t be snagged easily by a prankster classmate.
A carabiner would also work as well, in place of a spring-loaded clip, and it may be more durable. You can find very sturdy carabiners at stores that sell hunting, hiking, camping, or rock climbing gear.
Even better would be one of those retractable keychains that allow you to clip keys to a belt loop (or a loop on your child’s purse or backpack), then pull on the keys to extend the cord while your child unlocks the door. When she’s done, the cord will retract, and the keys will stay put, right where they belong.
A lanyard may be another option. You could loop it over your child’s jacket on the hook where it hangs, or lay it on top of something that your child never forgets, like her glasses or smartphone. Have your child wear it around his neck to and from school. Unfortunately, this tip relies on your child remembering to hang it over his coat (so he will notice it when he gets his coat to come home). This method also requires that your child remembers his coat!
You could also attach the key ring to your child’s wallet. Kids tend to keep track of the money they want to spend more than they do their keys! Plus, a wallet is bigger and more noticeable in your child’s hand, so it’s less likely to get set down and left behind, especially with jingly keys dangling from it.
A hidden back up key is another option. You can hide the key in a fake rock or under a planter (or preferably in a more creative place). The downside to this tip is that if someone sees your child hiding/retrieving the key, it’s not only obvious that your child is at home alone, but that there’s an easily available way to get inside.
A safer option would be giving keys to a friendly neighbor. It would need to be a neighbor that tends to be home a lot, or at least when your child arrives home from school. But this should only be a back up solution, because even the kindly old lady who “never” goes out can have an emergency, and be away from home when that key is needed most. It also requires a high level of trust in that neighbor, that they’ll not only respect your privacy and not trespass in your home while you’re away, but that they won’t leave your key laying around where their delinquent nephew can grab it.
You might consider sewing an emergency key between the lining and the exterior of your kid’s backpack or purse, and not let her know until that one awful time when you just can’t come to her rescue, and neither can anyone else. Then she can rip open the sewn-up seam in the lining and tear the key free, if necessary.
If you live close to libraries, coffee shops, or other safe places to hang out, it may be smart to have a “back up to the back up plan,” a place where your child can spend time as a last resort if there’s no way to get into the house.
The ideal solution, though more expensive, is to get one of those deadbolt locks that can take either a key or a code punched in. They tend to cost around $100 for one lockset, and they are battery operated. You can have multiple unique codes programmed into the lock, one for each member of the family, and one for the nanny or the dog walker. You can save one for the plumber to get in, then change it after his job is done. America’s Lock and Key, a local locksmith in the Tampa, Florida area, is an expert in installing these kinds of locks.
Many parents say this solution is well worth the extra expense, and just think—you won’t need to pay for more replacement keys! Just be sure that your child understands that they can’t share their code with anyone, or let their friends see them enter the code.
If you’re concerned about that, you could also look into locks that require a fingerprint scan to open, rather than a code. You won’t be able to use this with your plumber, but you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your child can always get in, no matter what, and that no one outside the family can. And if that expensive lock gives you pause, just imagine how much you’ll save if you don’t have to leave work every time your child is locked out on a cold day.
If all else fails, and you’re really exasperated when your child forgets his keys again, you could always tie the keys to a big, clunky, stinky shoe and make your child carry it around in his backpack for a week. You’ll get dirty looks from him all week long, but he might be less likely to forget his keys the next time!