Home Alone: Is Your Child Ready?
Deciding to let your child stay home alone is a process. It requires planning, teaching, and taking a realistic look at your child’s readiness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents consider allowing their child to stay home alone at age 11 or 12—as long as it’s during the day and for no more than about three hours. Even more important than age, say experts, is maturity: Is your child ready for this responsibility? Is your child relaxed or apprehensive about being alone? The bottom line: Let your child stay home alone only if you and your child are comfortable with the idea.
Prepare Your Child
Preparation is the key to helping your child feel safe. Experts recommend that you arm your child with knowledge:
Make sure your child knows where to find the first-aid supplies and how to handle basic injuries like cuts, scrapes, minor burns, and nosebleeds.
Safely store dangerous items including guns, knives, power tools, razor blades, and medications in a locked cabinet or out of the reach of children.
Teach your child who to call and what to do in emergency situations such as a medical emergency or fire. Post emergency numbers on the fridge or another place in the house that’s easy to find. In addition, make sure your child knows at least two escape routes from the house.
Show your child how to shut off alarm systems, where to find flashlights, and how to use cellphones and landlines.
Leave your work phone number, cellphone number, and numbers of nearby friends, neighbors, or relatives.
Agree on the rules for using the phone, television, internet, and kitchen appliances; having friends visit; and if homework and chores are expected to be completed before you come home.
Protect Your Child
In addition to preparation, experts advise that you protect your home-alone child by following these guidelines:
Secure windows and doors when you leave.
Teach your child to keep the doors and windows locked at all times.
Talk with your child about when it’s OK to open the door, or if he or she shouldn’t open the door at all when you’re not home. Remind your child not to tell strangers at the door or on the phone that he or she is home alone. In addition, tell your child not to talk about being home alone on social media.
Have your child check in when they get home, or call them yourself while away. You can also have a neighbor or friend do so.
Finally, limit the time that your child is alone. An hour or two may be appropriate, but try to avoid extended periods of unsupervised time.
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