If the thought of leaving your child home alone gives you sweaty palms and heart palpitations, you’re not alone. Millions of parent struggle with the issue of when should you leave your child home alone and for how long? Eventually, there will come a time when you have to bite the bullet, so here is what you need to know.
There are literally dozens of recommendations to try and gauge the maturity level of your children as well as his or her ability to react in the case of an emergency. However, as a parent you have the ultimate responsibility to make that decision.
At a minimum you should be able to answer “Yes” to the following 20 Questions:
- Does your child know your home phone number and address?
- Have you discussed with your child what kinds of situations require a call to 9-1-1?
- Have you developed a routine for what your child will be doing while he or she is home alone?
- Has your child demonstrated in multiple settings that he or she is consistently responsible (for example, at home, at school, and when visiting other friends’ homes)?
- Can your child explain to you in detail you what he or she would do in an emergency, including a fire, an intruder, or a medical emergency?
- When using a cell phone to call 9-1-1, calls can sometimes be routed to regional call centers, rather than local 9-1-1 operators. In this situation, the caller must be prepared to state his or her city and general type of emergency before being connected with the appropriate local authorities. Would your child know how to do this if he or she had to call 9-1-1 from a cell phone?
- Is your child capable of calling 9-1-1 in an emergency, calmly explaining the problem, and stating your address?
- Is it legal in the state where you live for your child to stay home alone?
- Has your child told you explicitly that he or she feels confident to stay home alone?
- Has your child demonstrated an ability to stand up to peer pressure and think for himself or herself?
- Does your child know about the specific consequences which would apply if he or she chose not follow the rules while he or she was home alone?
- Is your home childproof? (For example, are medicines and firearms locked up?)
- Are there one or two neighbors nearby whom your child could call if a situation arose where he or she needed immediate assistance, but the emergency was not severe enough to warrant calling 9-1-1?
- Have you worked out a system for storing your front door key, either with your child or in a lock box outside your home?
- Does your child know what rules he or she must follow when you are not home?
- Are the house rules, neighbors’ phone numbers, your emergency contact information, and instructions for handling an emergency clearly posted in your home?
- Have you role played how to handle various emergency situations?
- Has your child demonstrated that he or she is capable of calling you on your cell phone?
- Have you spoken with your child about what is expected of him or her while you are not home?
- Does your child regularly follow your instructions, whether you are present or not?
If you answered yes to all 20, but are still hesitant about leaving your child home by themselves, you’re not alone.