Leaving your kids home alone? Do this first

Leaving your kids home alone? Do this first

The very thought of leaving kids home alone can cause grey hairs. How can you determine if your child is ready? Can they handle a few hours alone after school? Will they burn the house down? Although there is no set age where children can begin staying home without a parent, those who are ready usually show these signs:

  • Don’t fear being home alone
  • Often show responsibility and good decision making
  • Can make a snack or simple meal for themselves
  • Knows home address and phone number
  • Can use a phone and knows how to dial 911 and other emergency contacts
  • Knows and can administer basic first aid
  • Follows set rules

If your child often displays these behaviors, it may be time to take the next step. Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a pediatric psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., has provided the following preparation tips for the parents weighing their options:

Prepare and practice – Talk with your child about what it will be like to be home alone and answer any questions he or she may have. Have your child demonstrate for you the various things they may need to do in your absence. You can even role play different scenarios in order to ensure that your child feels confident and will act safely.

Establish rules – Discuss rules and expectations for staying home alone. Make sure your child is clear on the dos and don’ts while you’re away. For some children, it may be helpful to come up with a list of ideas and activities that are permitted as well as any responsibilities (like calling you to check in or doing chores) that are expected of them. Also, make sure you are very clear and specific about any activities that are off limits.

Have an emergency plan – Teach your child what to do in various emergency situations such as a fire, severe weather or if they get sick. Keep a list of emergency contacts posted somewhere they can easily access (such as on the fridge).

Start small – In order to help your child build confidence — and to give yourself some peace of mind — start this process by leaving them home alone for a short time. You may even want to make the first try a time when you don’t actually have something else to do, so that you can be nearby and easily accessible if needed. As you and your child feel comfortable, you can lengthen the time your child stays home alone.

Ready for school? Find the first-available pediatrician near you and schedule your child’s check-up or physical online.

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  1. You may want to check with local law enforcement, as Illinois at least, has a minimum age when children can be left alone

  2. The article gives some very good advise on when you feel comfortable leaving your child alone.
    However, it doesn’t indicate the minimum age children are allowed to be left alone and unsupervised. Some kids as young as 9 are mature enough to be left alone, but Heaven forbid something bad should happen, the parents (depending on the state) could be arrested for child neglect. Only three States currently have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. Illinois law requires children to be 14 years old before being left alone; in Maryland, the minimum age is 8, while in Oregon, children must be 10 before being left home alone. Best to check before deciding it’s ok to leave your child home alone.

About the Author

Efua Richardson
Efua Richardson

Efua Richardson, health enews contributor, is a senior at Lewis University studying public relations & advertising. In the future, she hopes to work in entertainment, namely in the music industry. In her free time, she enjoys reading, scrolling through Instagram and trying new ethnic dishes. Among her talents is the ability to move her kneecaps in tune to music and wiggle her nose.