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Home Alone: Is Your Child Ready?

Child and Family

Is it time?

“How do I know when my child is ready to stay home alone?”

It’s a question I hear time to time from parents and one that can cause a lot of anxiety. Leaving your child without supervision can mean they face very real risks – but it can also be a positive experience that helps them build confidence and life skills.

While the ability for a child to stay home on their own is ultimately a judgment call from the parents, here are some general tips to not only help with that decision, but also make the transition go smoothly.Ages and Stages

Some states have laws regarding ages at which a child can be home alone, but otherwise, it is generally agreed upon by most sources that children under 10 years of age should not be left unsupervised. Past that, the decision to let your child stay home alone should be based on their maturity level and skills.

First and foremost, ask your child if they are comfortable staying home alone. This is a big step in your child’s development, and if they are uneasy about being left alone, it can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety and increase the risk of an accident.

Ages and Stages

Some states have laws regarding ages at which a child can be home alone, but otherwise, it is generally agreed upon by most sources that children under 10 years of age should not be left unsupervised. Past that, the decision to let your child stay home alone should be based on their maturity level and skills.

First and foremost, ask your child if they are comfortable staying home alone. This is a big step in your child’s development, and if they are uneasy about being left alone, it can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety and increase the risk of an accident.

Four questions to ask

After that, ask yourself a few simple questions about your child’s abilities:

  1. Do they generally obey rules and stay out of trouble?
  2. Have they showed responsibility with completing chores and tasks at home?
  3. Can they respond well to stressful situations and adapt when things don’t go as planned?
  4. Can your child complete certain tasks to help ensure their safety, like knowing when to call 911 and knowing their full name and address

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” they may be ready to stay home alone.

Know the Circumstances

Being aware of the circumstances around leaving your child unsupervised can make a difference in their safety. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Will your child be alone during the day or night?
  • Will they need to be in charge of feeding themselves?
  • How many children will be left at home at once? Do you trust the older children to help care for the younger?
  • How safe is your neighborhood? Does your child know how to lock the doors and what to do in the event of a visitor?
  • Are there adults around that you trust to have your child contact in the event they need help?

Be Prepared

When you feel your child may be ready to stay alone, there are things you can do as a parent to help the transition:

  • Do a trial run. Leave the child home for a short period of time and make yourself easy to reach during that time. When you come back, talk to your child about how it went and things to improve on.
  • Set the ground rules and be direct in your expectations. Make it clear about rules regarding having friends over when home alone, using the kitchen and cooking, internet and computer use expectations, and any other checklist items you feel are important and appropriate in your home.
  • Schedule times that you will call to check in or vice versa.

As with any new stage in life, preparing for it can be a big key to success. If you have questions about what your child needs to know to stay on their own, begin the conversation with your Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician.

Emily Bendlin

About the Author:

Pediatrician Dr. Emily Bendlin has always had a passion for working with kids and parents.

Not one to steer clear of difficult cases, she wakes up every morning ready to take on new challenges that await her at Methodist Physicians Clinic Gretna.

See More Articles by Emily Bendlin