five steps to help kids stay at home alone safely
Whether your child’s school is partial in-person or all online, parents have some difficult choices about balancing work, school and at-home time. How can you decide if your child is ready to be left home alone – and how will you make sure they’re safe?
“Staying home alone can build a child’s independence and resilience. It can also leave them open to getting hurt or into trouble if they become bored, lonely or feel neglected,” says Melissa King DO, pediatrician at Dayton Children’s Pediatrics and director of the Healthy Me program. Dr. King has five steps to help.
Is your child ready for the responsibility?
Gauging a child’s maturity level is the first step. Does your child…
- Want to stay home alone?
- Show responsibility with homework, household chores and following directions?
- Stay calm (relatively) in unexpected situations or when things don't go as planned?
prepare your child
If the answer is yes to all the above, then first make sure your child has a trusted adult to contact at all times. This could be a neighbor or a relative. Remind them to never answer the door to a stranger and never reveal they are alone while on the phone.
Then walk through the safety basics. Coach them on what to do in an emergency, who to call, what information to provide for such scenarios as a fire or a medical emergency – especially any allergies or medications. Teach your child basic first aid and where the supplies are located to handle a cut, bleeding or a minor burn. Walk through fire safety and what their first steps should be to handle a stove or microwave emergency.
If you are leaving younger kids home with older teens, teach the older teens about choking hazards and always post the poison control number, 1-800-222-1222.
create a schedule
Help your children create a schedule for their day. Map out time for schoolwork, screen time, physical activity and leisure time. Part of that plan should be lunch. If possible, leave pre-prepared food. This avoids any dangers involved with knifes or burns from hot microwaved dishes.
set the ground rules
What are they allowed to do and what are they not? Are friends allowed over? If yes, how many? Do you want them answering the phone? Can they go to the park or should they stay in the yard? Cover all these questions when setting rules.
Be sure to make a few check-in calls throughout the day to ensure everyone is safe and the day is going as planned. Additionally, leave a written list of phone numbers including your number, a trusted adult’s number and the police non-emergency number. If you are running late, communicate that with the children as they will worry too, and this sets up a mutually respectful expectation for when they may be late in the future.
With these few simple steps your child is well on their way to feeling confident in staying home alone and having a successful school year. For more information visit: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Is-Your-Child-Ready-To-Stay-Home-Alone.aspx