Home Alone?

Home Alone?

As our state is in the beginning phases of reopening and many parents are preparing to return to work, this summer offers a different outlook compared to the usual routine of many families. With concerns of the potential spread of COVID-19 upon reopening our state and the desire to continue “social distancing” as much as possible, many summer programs are faced with the decision of whether or not to provide childcare this summer for children while they are out of school. This has left many parents seriously considering whether or not their children are ready to stay home alone or if they should begin to seek other means of childcare. 

**Child experts generally agree that twelve is the age at which parents can consider allowing their child to begin to stay home alone, provided that it is during the day and for no more than approximately three hours. However, all children mature differently, so it is important to evaluate your child individually**

Only a few states have a minimum legal age for children to be left alone, so in most cases it is up to the parent to decide whether his/her child is ready for this next step. Here are some quick tips from the AAP and healthychildren.org to consider when you are faced with this decision.

  • Knows how to properly answer the telephone: Children should never disclose on the phone that they are alone. An appropriate response would be: “My mom’s not able to come to the phone right now; can I take your number and have her get back to you?”
  • Knows emergency response: Your child should know who to call and what to do in the event of a fire, medical crisis, suspicious stranger at the door, or other emergency. Coach teens on how to respond to each of these situations. Conspicuously post emergency telephone numbers on the refrigerator and by every phone in the house, and be sure they know at least two escape routes from the home.
  • Knows where to find the water shutoff valves: Teach your child where to locate all shut-off valves on toilets sinks, as well as the main water valve in the event of a leak or overflowing toilet. 
  • Is aware of basic first aid: Your child should know where to find first-aid supplies and how to properly handle basic first aid (or who to call) for cuts, scrapes, nosebleeds, minor burns, etc.
  • Knows how to put out a cooking fire: Younger children should not be using the oven/stove when parents are not home, but older teens should be aware to keep baking soda, flour, or a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Teens should know never to throw water on a grease fire.
  • Knows the names of pediatrician & preferred hospital

To prepare your child for emergency situations, go over the following:

  1. His/her full name, phone number, address
  2. Parents name and address/number at work
  3. Phone number for emergency services
  4. How to quickly evacuate the home in case of fire
  5. Rules specific to your household
  6. Full name and number of a backup person

Ground rules to establish for when your child is home alone. Be sure your child knows where you stand on these specific situations and is aware that breaking these rules may result in losing their privilege to stay home alone.

Start slow. Begin by allowing your child to be left home alone for a short 30-45 minutes at a time and slowly increase. Discuss how your child feels and any problems they may have faced. If the child is fearful, they may not be ready to stay home for extended periods alone.