How Do You Know When Your Child Is Ready to Stay Home Alone?

It's obvious to most parents that 7-year-olds can't stay home alone, while most 15-year-olds can.

 

But what about those 8 to 14-year-old kids in the middle? It can be hard to know when kids are ready to handle being home alone. Honestly, it ultimately comes down to your judgment about what your child is ready for.

Kids old enough to stay home alone? Print and post our Home Alone Rules to remind your children what is allowed and what isn't while staying home alone. #parenting #parentingtips #momhacks #stayhomealone #childsafety #parentinghelp

Leaving Your Child Home Alone

Use Laws as Guidelines

Regardless of the laws in your state, use them as guidelines. Follow the law, of course, but if your state doesn't have a set age for your child to stay home alone, then you need to exercise wise judgment in your decision.

 

In general, it's not a good idea to leave kids younger than about 11-12 years old home alone. Every child is different, but at that age, most kids don't have the maturity and skills to respond to an emergency if they're alone.

 

Also, it's crucial to know how your child feels about the idea of being home alone. Often kids insist that they'll be fine long before parents feel comfortable with it.

 

But then again, there are older kids who seem afraid even when you're pretty confident that they'd be just fine.

 

So how do you know?

 

In order to be able to stay home alone safely, kids should be able to do several things:

  • Won’t be scared or nervous.
  • How to work the phone/cellphone
  • How and when to call 9-1-1 and what address information to give the dispatcher
  • Be trustworthy to follow the rules.
  • Know how to get in touch with you, if needed.
  • What to do if:
    • The smoke alarm goes off
    • There's a tornado or other severe weather
    • Someone comes to the door (especially a stranger)
    • Someone calls for a parent who isn't home
    • There's a power outage

Related:

How to Find An Amazing Babysitter That You Trust
What is the Legal Minimum Age That Kids Can Stay Home Alone (+ guidelines in all 50 states)

 

Safety Tips for Parents Preparing to Leave a Child Home Alone

 

Here is a checklist of things that parents need to be aware of as they start working toward letting a child begin staying home by themselves.

  • Post a list of emergency numbers including family members, trusted friends and neighbors, and emergency personnel.
    • Include 9-1-1, parents’ work and cell numbers, other nearby family members, numbers for neighbors or friends, and the numbers for anyone else who is nearby and trusted.
  • Make sure your child knows his/her phone number and address. Write these on the list of important numbers.
    • It is very easy for anyone, especially a child, to panic in an emergency. If this information is included on the list, your child can easily read aloud to a 9-1-1 operator in case of emergency.
  • Make sure that you are easily reachable if your child calls you. Check your messages often and promptly return your child's calls.
  • Keep a first aid kit in the house. Teach your child very basic first aid.
  • Make sure there are working smoke detectors on every floor of the house and teach your child what to do in case of fire.
    • Have a written family fire plan (keep it with the important phone numbers) and practice fire evacuation routes with your children.
  • Keep a flashlight and batteries in an easily accessible place in case of a power outage. Show your child where it is.
  • Limit any cooking that can be done without adult supervision.
  • Call and check on your child. Always call and let them know if you are running late.
  • Remove (or safely store in locked areas) dangerous items like
    • guns
    • knives
    • hand tools
    • power tools
    • razor blades
    • scissors
    • ammunition
    • other objects that can cause injury.
  • Make sure potential poisons like cleaning supplies, polishes, pesticides, poisons (insect, weed killer, etc), lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
  • Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of the reach of children.
  • Limit the time the child spends in front of the television or computer. Caution them to not talk about being home alone on public websites. Kids should be cautious about sharing information about their location when using chat rooms or posting on social networks.

Free printable of our Home Alone Safety Rules to print and post to remind your children what is allowed and what isn't while staying home alone. #parenting #parentingtips #momhacks #stayhomealone #childsafety #parentinghelp

Set Some Basic Ground Rules

Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or work outside of the home, it is not feasible to be able to be home with your kids all the time.

 

It helps both parents and kids feel more comfortable with this huge life milestone when they have clear boundaries of what is ok and what is not ok.

 

So here are some practical and useful safety tips for kids when home alone. Once you decide on the rules you want to set, sit down and clearly outline them for your child. It would also help to post them somewhere visible.

 

Information to go over with your child before they stay home alone:

  • Calling to check in when they get home (from school or anywhere else)
  • Having a friend(s) over while you're not there – allowed? not allowed?
  • Rooms of the house that are off limits, especially with friends
  • Rules about the neighborhood and friends. Can he/she go outside at all?
  • TV time and types of shows that are allowed
  • Internet and computer rules
  • Video game usage rules
  • Kitchen and cooking (consider making the oven, stove, and sharp utensils off limits)
  • Not opening the door for strangers
  • Answering the phone and how to handle someone asking for a parent that isn't home
  • Not telling anyone on social media or video games that he/she is alone
  • How to lock and unlock all the doors and windows.
    • Do a test run of this to make sure they know how to use all of the locks.
  • Emergency Information – make sure it's posted somewhere easily seen/found.
  • Let him/her ask any questions or address concerns.

 

Print and post our Home Alone Safety Rules in a prominent place to remind your children of what's allowed and what's not allowed when they stay home alone.

 

Stay Home Alone Rules For Children

  1. Keep all doors & windows locked at all times.
  2. Don't answer the door and never let anyone into the house (even for deliveries – deliveries can be left by the front door).
  3. Use Caller ID or an answering machine to screen calls. When answering the phone, never tell callers you are home alone. Tell them your mom/dad is busy and will call them back.
  4. You MUST answer the phone when Mom or Dad calls
  5. Stay in the house until parents return home. Do not invite friends over.
  6. NO sharing they are home alone (or their location) over social media, video games or the internet in any way.
  7. In an emergency, always call 9-1-1 first (then parents if possible).
  8. Do not use the stove or the oven
  9. Check in with parent via a phone call every half hour (or hour, if you prefer).
  10. Tell parents of any fears or concerns.

 

Lock the doors and if the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone.

Kids old enough to stay home alone? Print and post our Home Alone Rules to remind your children what is allowed and what isn't while staying home alone. #parenting #parentingtips #momhacks #stayhomealone #childsafety #parentinghelp