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Is Your Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?

March 21, 2016
Drawing of a family in a magic carpet. Link to Navigating Life's Journey

Here’s a great idea…

Over the next couple of weeks, your children will likely be on Spring Break! Unfortunately for us, not every parent gets a week off from work. Because kids are out of school, you will need to make other arrangements for their days, and it may be a good time to assess whether s/he is ready to stay home alone. Because every child is different, there are no hard and fast rules regarding what age is appropriate to leave a child home alone (though some states have laws regarding this issue); however, there are several things to take into account when making the decision to trust your child with this responsibility:

  • Is your child excited about the possibility of staying home alone? (If not, it may be too early.)
  • Can your child read well enough to follow instructions?
  • Can your child open and close windows, lock and unlock doors, and operate small appliances (toaster, microwave)?
  • Can your child reliably use the telephone, and do you have one available for them to use (either landline, cell, or tablet)?
  • Does your child have the maturity to behave calmly in a crisis?
  • Does your child understand plans for emergencies such as fire or storms?
  • Would your child reliably follow house rules such as staying inside or in the yard, not answering the door or divulging to a stranger that s/he is home alone, staying away from dangerous things in the house such as chemicals and firearms?

In other words…

You know your child and her/his capabilities and maturity. It is up to you and your child to decide whether they are ready for such a responsibility, and up to you to train them to handle it! Here are a few ideas about how to test their skill.

How this applies to you…

If you and your child think staying home alone is a good idea, give them a few, short, trial runs where you are not far away and can return quickly if needed. Be sure to leave them with a reliable, means of communication. If you do not have a landline, make sure they have a phone, computer, or tablet that is equipped to make outgoing calls. Some use FaceTime or Skype, and this may work for your family. You may consider getting a phone for your child if they will be staying home frequently (such as after school daily). Typically, a child mature enough to stay home alone will be excited about the freedom, but be sure to set firm rules to help them govern their time.

To find out more…

For more information, visit www.childwelfare.gov

 

By Brittney Schrick

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