Most parents are worried sick when they have to leave their kids alone, no matter how long (or short). However, most parents also over-react and worry far too much. If your kids are ready to spend some time home alone for a few hours, you can just leave them without having to check up on them every five minutes. Here are some tips that will keep your conscience clear while your kids are home alone.
Check the law and the environment
The first thing you need to do is to check your state law regarding unsupervised children. While some states say that kids can be left alone from a certain age (it varies from 8 to 14 years old), others have to legal restrictions. You as a parent need to be able to tell whether your kid is mature enough to stay without parents for a prolonged period of time. Another thing that needs to be looked at is your environment. If your home has all the necessary safety features and your community is peaceful and free of crime, it can help you decide whether you can leave your kids. If you live in a peaceful neighborhood where your kid has access to trustworthy neighbors and you’re leaving for a few hours during the day, it’s likely that nothing bad will happen.
Consider their readiness
Like stated above, it all comes down to your child’s readiness rather than their age. Whether your kid is ready to stay home alone greatly depends on your parenting style and your child’s independence. If you’ve been careful to nurture your kid’s independence by letting them play alone, solve problems, learn for their mistakes and explore the house on their own, it might be a good sign that you can trust your child to stay home and not ruin the house or hurt themselves. Of course, some kids are just clingier, so they shouldn’t be left home alone until they are comfortable with that step.
Create guidelines in case of an emergency
A great part of deciding whether you can leave your kid alone at home or not plays their ability to understand emergency situations and follow certain guidelines. Your kid needs to be able to phone you and other emergency contacts and know when is the appropriate time to call 911. In case they can do so, make sure to leave all contacts clearly printed and stored in a visible place. You can practice various emergency situations (fire or unwanted visitors) and see whether your kid acts with confidence.
In order to be able to relax when away from home, you need to set some boundaries and rules for your child. Make sure to discuss guidelines about having friends over, eating, TV and computer limitations, answering the phone and opening the door. Some rooms can be off limits while you’re gone to improve safety. It’s a great idea to leave a list of suggested activities for kids who are just learning to spend time alone. This will prevent doubt, boredom and overthinking. You can prepare some educational cartoons for your kid to watch that will keep them entertained in a safe and productive way. Remember to show that you’re confident in your kid’s ability to be responsible and trustworthy and your kid will likely surprise you in a positive way.
Have a trial run
Even if you think your kid is ready for a few hours of being alone, make sure to have a trial run that will ensure you don’t have anything to worry about. Next time you go to the grocery store or a coffee shop for 30 minutes, leave the house to your kid and see how they handle it. When you come back home, discuss how they felt.
f you go through all of these steps, you can be sure your kid is ready to handle a few hours alone while you run errands or have an outing with your spouse. Your kid is more resilient than you think and you’ll be pleasantly surprised just how independent they can be.
For more awesome parenting tips, check out the other blogs on Cyber Parent.