At What Age Should You Leave Your Child Home Alone? |

At What Age Should You Leave Your Child Home Alone?

Important advice for parents

Posted on

31 July 2013

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When to Leave Your Child Home Alone

To begin with, we cannot stress enough that babies and toddlers should NOT be left home alone, ever.

This means not even a trip to the shop next door, down to the lobby of your building or a visit to your pool. Absolutely anything could happen whilst you are away from a fire to a fall and accidents happen in the blink of an eye.

You will know when you child is mature enough and responsible enough to be eventually left home alone by taking the following into consideration and these points should demonstrate that a toddler would not be able to be left home alone:

Age and Maturity

There is no agreed-upon age when all children are able to stay home alone safely. Because children mature at different rates, you should not base your decision on age alone.

You may want to evaluate your child's maturity and how he or she has demonstrated responsible behavior in the past. Ask yourself the following questions to see if the child is ready.

  • Is your child physically and mentally able to care for him- or herself?
  • Does your child obey rules and make good decisions?
  • Does your child feel comfortable or fearful about being home alone?
  • Circumstances

    When and how a child is left home alone can make a difference to his or her safety and success. Ask yourself the following questions to see if your child is ready.

  • How long will your child be left home alone at one time?
  • Will it be during the day, evening, or night?
  • Will the child need to make a meal?
  • How often will the child be expected to care for him- or herself?
  • How many children are being left home alone? Children who seem ready to stay home alone may not necessarily be ready to care for younger siblings.
  • Is your home safe and free of hazards?
  • How safe is your neighborhood?
  • Safety Skills

    In addition to age and maturity, your child will need to master some specific skills before being able to stay home alone safely. In particular, your child needs to know what to do and whom to contact in an emergency situation. Knowledge of basic first aid is also useful. You may want to consider enrolling your child in a safety course.

    The following questions may also help:

  • Does your family have a safety plan for emergencies? Can your child follow this plan?
  • Does your child know his or her full name, address, and phone number?
  • Does your child know where you are and how to contact you at all times?
  • Does your child know the full names and contact information of other trusted adults, in case of emergency?
  • Tips for Parents

    Once you have determined that your child is ready to stay home alone, the following suggestions may help you to prepare your child and to feel more comfortable about leaving him or her home alone:

  • Have a trial period. Leave the child home alone for a short time while staying close to home. This is a good way to see how he or she will manage.
  • Role play. Act out possible situations to help your child learn what to do.
  • Establish rules. Make sure your child knows what is (and is not) allowed when you are not home. Some experts suggest making a list of chores or other tasks to keep children busy while you are gone.
  • Check in. Call your child while you are away to see how it's going, or have a trusted neighbor or friend check in.
  • Talk about it. Encourage your child to share his or her feelings with you about staying home alone.
  • Don't overdo it. Even a mature, responsible child shouldn't be home alone too much. Consider other options, such as programs offered by schools, community centers, youth organisations to help keep your child busy and involved.
  • You will see from the above that a baby or toddler would not be able to be left at home and you may be looking at the age of 14 or 15 or even older before your child could cope home alone. This is not something to be rushed and you should look into alternatives for home child care such as baby sitters, maids, nanny, trusted friend, family member etc.