Is It Okay to Leave My Child Home Alone?
When to leave a child home alone is a difficult decision. Unfortunately, in many cases, family circumstances force a choice before parents have had a change to consider all the issues and make a judgement. Before this happens in your family, think about these two questions.
First How mature is my child? Children vary widely in their ability to follow directions, occupy themselves, cope sensibly with unexpected situations, and resist temptation. Generally speaking, many ten-year-olds are ready to handle being alone for short periods of timean hour or so. Age alone, however, is not reliable guide.
Second How safe and familiar is my neighborhood? A family neighbor willing to check on the child or be available can ease your mind and be a sense of security for the child. If one is not available, you may want to rethink your decision to leave your child alone.
When you decide to take the first step, begin to prepare your child in advance. Establish clear rules and specific routines. Discuss with your child:
With the child, make a schedule of activities and post it on the refrigerator. Review important telephone numbers and post them next to the schedule. Review safety rules. Try to do this in a way that does not leave your child fearful or overly anxious. Rather than cautionary tales about terrible things that may happen, teach a few basic rules about what to do in particular situations like: when the doorbell rings; when an unknown person calls on the telephone; if a fire breaks out.
When the time comes, help your child feel connected to you. Leave a special message or snack surprise to let her know she is in your thoughts while you are away from home. Begin with short intervals of absence. Run an errand or visit a neighbor the first few times you leave your child alone. Gradually increase the frequency and length of your absences.
Finally. A couple of reminders.
Live and Learn; Creating Conditions for Childrens Success