As children get older, parents may decide that they are old enough to stay home alone. If your child has reached the legal age to stay home alone, you can get started by preparing them for this important milestone. It is important to discuss rules, expectations, and talk to your child to see if he or she has any questions. Most importantly, make sure this is an arrangement you are both comfortable with.
Here are some basic guidelines for helping your child to become prepared to stay home alone for the first time.
Have a list of emergency contacts posted in a place that is accessible to your child. Discuss whom to call in the event of an emergency, or if your child is in need of an adult. You can also make sure these numbers are programmed into your child’s cell phone. The emergency contact list should include the work and cell numbers for both parents, the home and cell numbers for the nearest neighbor, relative, or friend, as well as fire, police, poison control, and 911. You may want to write down your full address.
Make sure your child knows the rules for how to stay safe. Do they know not to answer the door to strangers? Do they know what to say if someone calls on the phone? Are they able to prepare food for themselves? It is important to make sure your child knows where to find things like bandages or the first aid kit, or lock the door when they get home.
Rules and Expectations
It is important to make sure that your child is clear on the rules and expectations for staying home alone. Make sure you establish what you expect of them. Do they have to complete homework when they get home? Are there chores you expect them to do? Establish what your child is not allowed to do when they are staying home alone. Make sure you are clear that you do not want him or her playing videogames for hours, inviting friends over, or walking around the neighborhood.
Start with a few practice sessions. Go for a short trip to the store or to put gas in the car just to see how it goes. If your child does well, leave them home while you go to the grocery store or a dentist appointment. You can gradually work your way up to longer stretches of time until you feel comfortable leaving your child home alone while you are working.
Helping to prepare your child to stay home alone will help to make both of you comfortable with the transition, and ease your child into this important step in growing up. More important, it will give you the peace of mind that your child will be okay while you are away at work.