Is Your Child Ready To Stay Home Alone? Things to Consider

There have been days when Manfriend is at work and all I want is a quick run around the block, that I’ve considered just going for a quick dash around the neighborhood. Is it really that wrong? What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s when I ask myself that question the Hispanic Panic sets in and image Grizzly bears clawing their way into my girls’ rooms while I’m taking a lovely stroll by myself.

Though my girls are clearly too young to stay home alone, it is a phase I know nothing about. Here to help is a guest post from the lovely Vivian Geddes.

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home alone Is Your Child Ready To Stay Home Alone? Things to Consider

Staying home alone for the first time is an American rite of passage, and your child is probably looking forward to it as much as you are (or, as much as you are dreading it). It’s vital you don’t rush this milestone and make sure your child is ready. Consider these things before leaving your kids home alone for the first time:

Honesty and Trust

Without honesty, there’s no way that you can trust your child to stay home alone. Parenting experts from Better Homes & Garden note some children never should be left alone, regardless of their age. Children with histories of discipline problems, lying, stealing and disobeying adults need more supervision. They should not be left alone until you can trust them to be safe and make good decisions on their own.

Maturity

There is no magic age when you’re child is ready to stay home alone. Just because your child can walk home from school by himself and is able to work the wireless home security system doesn’t mean he’s mature enough to be left alone for an extended period of time. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, Maryland and Illinois are the only states that have minimum age laws for kids staying home alone (8 and 14, respectively, depending on the length of time). All other states leave this decision up to parents. Many children are ready to stay home alone at age 11 or 12, but some may not be ready for this amount of responsibility until they are 13 or 14. Consider your child’s maturity level by honestly answering the following questions:

  • Is your child responsible with chores and schoolwork?
  • Does your child ask questions and follow directions when he or she doesn’t understand something?
  • How adaptable is your child in unexpected situations?
  • Do you trust your child’s judgment?

Rules

Establish the rules for when your child is home alone. KidsHealth.org suggest openly discussing what they think they should and shouldn’t be allowed to do. Together, create a list of rules that cover such things as having friends over, what rooms of the house are off-limits, TV and Internet usage, how to answer the phone and what to do if someone knocks at the door. Explain to your child the dangers of what can happen if strangers know they are home alone.

Expectations

Do you want your children to complete all of their homework while you’re gone? Does your child need to be ready to go to a music lesson as soon as you return? Whatever your expectations are, clearly define them for your child before leaving.

Then… Let Go

You’ve reviewed the information here. Twice. They’re trustworthy, honest and responsible. You’ve taught your kids independence, and now it’s time to leave them alone for the first time. Make an emergency contact list that includes your cell phone number and the numbers for the local police and fire departments, poison control, pediatrician, grandparents, neighbors and family friends who live close), and then go it’ll get easier. We promise.

Vivian is a certified doula and midwife. She teaches prenatal yoga and shares tips on organizing safe at-home birthing and other issues pertaining to health and being a loving, supportive mom.

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