Remember the days when you couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a moment to yourself, much less actually leaving the house while your kids stayed at home by themself? Well, as we know, the years go fast, and what once seemed like an eternity away has now arrived at your doorstep.
But just because your child is old enough to stay at home, does not mean they will automatically know the rules for staying home safe.
Here is a list of safety tips for tweens and teens (and parents!) experiencing this new level of independence.
Don’t Be Like Kevin
Yes, your tween is staying home alone. And unlike poor Kevin McCallister’s mom from the movie Home Alone, this time at home is expected. But the last thing you want is a Home Alone experience. Instead of fighting the bad guys on their own, kids need to know what to do in case of an emergency. Have a list of emergency numbers and contacts handy, and run through scenarios, so your child knows what to do if an emergency arises.
Have a Neighbor on Standby
In addition to an emergency contact list, find a neighbor who will be home and let them know your child may be reaching out if needed. That way, if your child has an unexpected need, they know someone in the neighborhood is there to help.
Keep the Doors Locked
It seems obvious, but lock the doors and let your child know they need to keep the doors locked. And, definitely never answer the door for a stranger.
To Cook or Not to Cook?
You know your child’s skill set. If your child is a little chef in the making, then it shouldn’t be a problem to let them make food while you are away. On the other hand, if they’ve never used the oven or stove before, cooking while they are alone isn’t the best time to gain those skills. Have them prepare food that is well within their expertise, and if they want to learn how to make more, set aside time to practice while you are home.
What About the Siblings?
Every child is different, and nobody knows your child better than you. If your child is responsible enough, they might be able to watch their younger siblings while you are away. If they’ve never watched them before, be sure you go over the rules and the schedule. Sometimes, offering a little monetary compensation will go a long way. Consider adding some money to their allowance or even giving them an hourly rate for the help they are providing.
How long can you leave a child alone?
How long you stay away will depend on your child’s age and level of maturity. Some kids will do great over long periods, while others may need to be home alone for shorter stints. You can start by leaving for a short time, then gradually increase the hours. Before you know it, you and your spouse will be able to have long date nights while the kids stay home – and even get themselves to bed. Can you imagine?
It can be both freeing, and nerve-racking, when our children are old enough to finally stay home alone. You know your child’s capabilities and can trust that with a little preparation and discussion of rules and boundaries, they will do great on their own. And you will enjoy a newfound freedom!