Home Alone: Recommendations For Safety
Many parents wonder when a young child can be let alone at home and what precautions should be taken when a child is without adult supervision. This brief article presents some guidelines and recommendations.
When should I leave my child alone at home?
Leaving a child alone depends on several factors – the maturity of the child; support available for the child; and the length of time the child is to be left alone. It is easy to talk about when a child should never be left alone. For example, children under six years old or when a young child is expected to watch over another sibling should never be left alone.
When children are around 9 – 12 this is a time when you can begin to have your child try out brief periods of time alone. Again, a number of factors should be kept in mind. Is the child comfortable in being left alone? How long will you be gone? Will the child be able to reach you if an emergency should arise? Are there trusted neighbors near by who you can let know that your child will be alone?
What are some safety precautions I should take?
In general, when you do decide your child can be left alone begin gradually starting out with brief periods of time – e.g. a trip to the grocery store. Also, be sure your child knows emergency numbers and go over safety precautions regarding cooking, not to take baths or showers while you are gone, if guns are in the house be sure they are locked up, that matches or lighters are not accessible, and establishing rules regarding answering the telephone or doors. Also, instead of just giving your child a list of instructions it is a good idea to ask your child what she would do if a stranger tried to enter the house or if a fire broke out. Response to these questions will help you and your child determine together whether they can handle being home alone.
Also, be sure and let your child know when you are expected home and if you are running late to let him or her know. This later suggestion is good role modeling on your part because when your children are teenagers and they leave you alone you will certainly want to know when they are expected back and if late to call.