If you’re a parent with an older child, you have a unique concern: the safety of leaving your kid home alone as you go off to work, especially now that summer break is upon us. Think of all the trouble they could get into as they romp around unsupervised. Please don’t faint.
The mere thought can induce worry and panic, but before you start envisioning scenes from Home Alone, remind yourself that there are many steps you and your children can take to ensure a safe and happy summer. Here are a few of our tips:
1) Determine if your child is ready to stay home alone. Age alone is not enough to determine if a child is ready to be home alone. Take into consideration whether or not your child wants to even remain alone, their level of maturity and the overall safety of your neighborhood.
2) Prepare your child by first leaving them alone for short periods of time. Ease them into this new situation by leaving them alone for short increments – 30 minutes, an hour – and gauge how they feel afterwards.
3) Reinforce safety rules. Remind your child that just because they’re home alone doesn’t mean they have free reign to do whatever they want. If anything, they need to be more careful than usual.
4) Inspect home safety equipment before leaving. Make sure the smoke detector has fresh batteries and is operating. Also double-check your security system or cameras if you have them.
5) Develop an emergency plan for your child. Help them prepare by outlining what to do in common situations. Leave a list of emergency contacts, and let them know where to find emergency supplies and how to use them.
6) Designate scheduled check-in times. Set up a time period where either you call your child or they call you. It could be at exactly 3 pm every day or as you’re leaving work.
7) Remind your child to never leave home without permission. In any case where your child should leave the house – going to a friend’s, swimming pool, etc. – have them contact you before doing so.
8) Do not announce that your child is home alone. Worrisome parents should not voice their concerns on social media or to co-workers. Let a trusted neighbor or family member know so they can check in if necessary, but no one else needs to be informed that your child is alone.
9) Remind your child that they should not let anyone know they’re home alone. It can be exciting for a kid to be home alone, but stress the importance of keeping that information to themselves – and the dangers of oversharing. Similar rules should be applied to answering the phone.
10) The door should never be opened for anyone. Have your child ask for packages to be left on the doorstep and for strangers to return at a later time.
Allowing your children to stay home alone involves a lot of trust and preparation, but it’s a huge step in helping them become independent. It's an opportunity to teach them the importance of remaining responsible and safe. Enjoy your summer and try not to worry too much while you’re at work!