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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…

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By Brittney Schrick

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