Determine when a child is ready to stay home alone

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

With the school year coming to a close and summer just around the corner, many parents of school-agers are faced with the decision of finding child care for their adolescent or allowing their child to stay home alone, says Dr. David Brown, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Often parents call, wanting the ‘magic’ age number that their child should be to stay home without supervision,” said Dr. Brown who specializes in family life issues.

Parents have many things to consider when making the decision, including the child’s ability to make good decisions, how he or she feels about being home alone and the length of time the child will be alone.

“Has your child spent some smaller increment times at home alone? This would be a good first step in gauging your child’s comfort and skill level. However, that is not the only factor to consider. The neighborhood you live in and the availability of adults should also be given some thought as well as your flexibility to field phone calls or check-in occasionally with your child.”

Parents can ask themselves the following questions to determine their child’s readiness to stay home alone.

Is my child mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being on his or her own?

Do my child and I communicate well about feelings?

Can my child manage simple tasks like making a snack and taking a phone message?

Has my child indicated an interest and/or a willingness to stay home alone?

Does my child generally observe rules that exist in our home?

Does my child spontaneously tell me about daily events?

Is my child physically able to unlock and lock the doors at our home?

Can my child solve small problems without assistance?

Does my child know when and how to seek outside help?

Do I think my child is prepared to handle an accident or an emergency?

Will my child follow our household rules when I am not home?

“It is important to teach your child these skills as well as any household rules you want to smake clear before leaving your child home alone. This will give your child confidence in his or her ability and help your child deal with emergencies.”

Dr. Brown said.

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