Home Alone

Should your kids be home alone?

By FamilyTime


All parents face the question of when it's okay to leave kids home alone. You may be tempted to leave them when you have a party to attend, gifts to return, or just tending to real life, but are they comfortable with this arrangement?

First, make sure your son or daughter is ready to stay alone. Ask him if he wants to be by himself, and perhaps taking care of younger siblings, before you go any further. If the child is obviously reluctant, look into other solutions.

If both you and your child are relaxed about it, go over safety rules and set up guidelines. These will make both of you feel better. (Keep in mind that all states have laws regarding the age when youngsters can be left unsupervised. This is to avoid the problem of very young kids being left without supervision.)

Plan Ahead
Post all relevant telephone numbers next to several phones. List your cell phone numbers and the land-line telephone number of where you will be.  Enlist a reliable neighbor or friend to be on call and list his or her number. Include the numbers for the pediatrician and poison control. Write your home address on the list as well as your telephone number. As mature as your child might be, he or she will find this helpful in an emergency. 

Go over when it would be appropriate to call 911 and what the children can expect if they do.

Make sure all fire alarms work. Point them out to the kids. In the event of fire, plan at least two escape routes from every room and every floor. Buy a fire ladder, if it makes sense. Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (not near the stove) and make sure everyone knows how to use it.

Walk though the kitchen and discuss the danger of the stovetop and oven. Determine if the child can use these. Perhaps you should limit snacks to uncooked ones or those that are heated in the microwave. \

Assemble a first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, antibacterial ointment, an icepack, and a few Tylenol and Benedryl. Instruct your kids not to administer the medicine without calling you first.

Put all other medication, poisonous household cleansers, and alcohol in a locked closet or out of sight. Lock up firearms and ammunition in two separate locations.

Check that all your windows and doors have working locks. Point these out to the kids and make sure they know how to secure them.

Equip your kids with cell phones.

Leave an extra key with a neighbor in the event someone gets locked out. Don’t hide keys under mats or flowerpots.  

Keep in Touch
You or your spouse should call the kids at least once while you are out. This reminds them that you are there for them and also that they should expect you to check at unannounced times.

If your plans change even a little (you know you will be late, you stop by the store, you are stuck in traffic), call your child. This way, no one will worry.

As with all things related to child care, be flexible and be prepared to make other plans. Leaning how to manage on their own is an important part of growing up for all children. Approach it with common sense and sensitivity.