Staying Home Alone
Your kids constantly ask about it and you have considered it several times, at what age can you leave your children home alone? This is a question that every parent must face at some point, some sooner rather than later. Kids mature at different ages so when one child is ready to stay home alone, another might be frightened to do so. If you are considering leaving your child alone at home, then it’s time to look for signs that your child is ready.
What is Your Child’s Temperament?
You should consider your child’s personality and the neighborhood you live in as deciding factors as to whether you leave your child home alone. If your child is naturally very nervous, then maybe staying home alone is not a good idea, however if your child is confident but accident-prone you’ll need to go over some ground rules with her. For the first time, you should not plan to leave the house for long period of time. Also, prepare some snacks for your child to eat while you are away so he won’t have to turn on the stove or use sharp knives without supervision.
Mommy, Can I Stay Home Alone?
When you’re considering leaving your child alone at home for a few hours, the first thing to do is check out your state’s laws regarding leaving kids home alone. In most states, children can be left home alone by age 12 or 13. Once you know what your state legally allows you to do, you can start off by leaving your child for small increments of time to see how they fare while you’re gone. Don’t go too far, though, and make sure your child has some way of reaching you quickly.
Rules of Staying Home Alone
Before you head out the door, it’s important to establish some "alone home safety rules" with your child.
- Never answer the door when no one else is home
- When answering the phone, tell your child to simply say that you are busy at the moment or let the answering machine pick up. Your child should never tell the caller that he is home by himself.
- Do not operate the stove, oven or barbecue.
- Know all the emergency numbers to call in case of an emergency. These would include the fire department, the poison control center, the doctor, the police and the ambulance as well as your cell phone or pager number. These numbers should be posted in a visible place, like on the refrigerator, or programmed into the phone.
- Make sure your child knows her name, telephone number, and address. Remind her not to give this information out to anyone suspicious who asks for it.
- Have a first aid kit on hand in a central location in the house and make sure your child knows where it is and what is in it.
- Do not leave any alcohol, medications or poisons out in the open. Lock up all of these items in a safe place.
- All the doors and windows of the house should be locked while you are gone.
- Your child should not be playing outside while you are gone, but if she does play outside, she should wear a helmet and follow outdoor safety rules.
- If your child uses the internet, remind them not to frequent chat web sites as there may be dangerous people on there. If she wants to talk to friends, she can use the telephone.
- Show your child where the fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm are located. Tell her to leave quickly if one of the alarms goes off.
- Designate a neighbor for your child to go to in case of an emergency.
After you have gone over these basic rules together, you should leave your cell phone or pager to reach you in case of an emergency.
Rules for Walking Home Alone
If your child will be walking home alone, make sure they follow these rules, especially if they are going home to an empty house.
- Never talk to strangers
- Never accept a ride home from anyone without your parent’s permission
- Come straight home from school or a friends house on the most direct route
- Do not enter the house if the door is unlocked or open as it may have been broken into
- Do not invite a group of friends into your home without your parent’s permission.
- Tell a teacher if you are being bullied or harassed after school and to ensure you can get home safely.
Rules for All Your Children
If you have two or more children, make sure they know how they are expected to behave. You do not want to come home to broken appliances and children screaming over injuries. Let them know that even though you may not be there, you are giving them the opportunity and privilege to prove themselves. If they can’t demonstrate that they can handle this responsibility, you will have to remove the privilege of staying home alone. Make sure you call to check in regularly so they know they are being monitored. If when you come home everything is in order, praise your children on how responsible and mature they have become.
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Find out what you can do to improve internet safety for kids when left home alone.