child turned 11 this year. He’s tired of being dragged around to his siblings’
activities. So my husband and I started thinking about letting him stay home
alone at times. It’s not an easy decision to make, so I decided to do a little
Points to Ponder
Most experts agree that children
under the age of 10 should not be left alone. Kids that age just aren’t mature
enough to handle the decisions and potential emergency situations.
Talk to your child. Is he or she
comfortable being left alone? The first time I brought up the subject with my
son, I was surprised to find that he didn’t want to stay home alone. Six months
later, it’s a different story.
Is your child responsible? If they
follow through dependably on chores and homework and they seem to use good judgment
in making decisions and following rules, you will feel better about letting
them stay alone. A risk-taker or absent-minded-professor type probably needs
more time to mature.
Where do you live? Think about
whether you are in a generally safe neighborhood and whether you have reliable
neighbors that may be around in an emergency.
your child, run through potential safety and emergency scenarios, such as what
to do if someone knocks on the door or if the child cuts himself.
Practice. Start out by leaving just
for 15 to 30 minutes, going someplace nearby—to a neighbor’s or the grocery store—so
that you can get back quickly if necessary.
Make sure your child knows how to use
the phone to call 911.
Make certain your child knows how to
call you, too. And, besides your
cellphone number, leaving the number for a neighbor or friend is a good idea.
Review how to use the home security
system, if you have one. My son still sets it off regularly when he lets the dog
out, but he knows how to fix it before the police come!
Review with your child when to answer
the phone. If you have Caller ID, tell your child not to answer for any number she
doesn’t recognize. Otherwise, have your child listen to the voicemail messages
and screen all calls.
Review when to answer the door. A
good rule of thumb is to never answer for a stranger or for anyone you are not
Discuss the fire and smoke alarms and
what to do if they go off.
Establish the Ground Rules
Discuss whether friends are allowed
over or not. We’re still new at this so that’s a big “NO” in our house.
Discuss any parts of the house that
Talk about TV and Internet rules. If your
children are allowed to get on the Internet when home alone, be sure they know
never to reveal that status to anyone online.
Discuss food choices. Until they are
older, avoiding sharp knives, cooktops, and ovens when you’re not there is wise. For now, we stick with foods that don’t need to be cooked or that can easily be
Childproof a Few Things
Things to consider putting safely out
of reach: alcohol, prescription medications, tobacco, and matches.
If you have guns, this is a great
time to make sure that they are all locked up, unloaded, and securely stored—with the ammo
stored in a separate safe spot.
Stay in Touch
Tell your child when you expect to be
Keep your phone available and where
you can hear it if it rings.
Call and check in periodically—tell
your child he can answer the phone if it’s you!