The next few months are filled with vacations, summer camp, swimming, and cookouts for most families. But for working parents, it can also mean decisions about if your children are ready to be home alone. Babysitters or daycare can be a huge cost but it can be dangerous to leave your kids home alone while you’re at work.
Any parent is nervous about the safety of their children, especially when you hear horror stories about kids left home alone over the summer. Deciding whether or not your children are ready to stay at home by themselves doesn’t have any hard and fast rules to follow—it depends completely on the responsibility and maturity levels of your child. If you decide they are ready, go over these points with your children to make sure they stay as safe as possible.
Role playing situations with your children and what they should do when they’re home alone can help you make better judgments on whether they’re ready and teach them what to do. Talk about what to do in a fire, injury, or intruder situation. By role playing, your children will be more ready to take action and stay safe in worst case scenarios. Do things like pretending there’s a fire or that you’re a stranger asking to come inside your home with an “emergency.” Taking time to remind your kids to never open the door to strangers or to someone they feel uncomfortable with will keep them safe and give you some reassurance.
Part of the basis to stay at home alone needs to be about following rules. If your children can follow your rules well and understand why, they might be ready. Setting special stay at home alone rules is important to keeping them safe when you’re not there. Decide if they can use kitchen appliances, play outside, have friends over, and what chores and tasks they need to do when you’re not home. Having a family meeting with a conversation works better than laying down the law—but you can also use technology to keep an eye on your children.
Going over what they should do in emergency situations and the family plan that is modified for when they’re home alone will help them know what to do and help you get to them quickly if something should go wrong. Talking about what to do in severe weather of if someone breaks into your home and judging his or her reactions to these conversations can help you make your decision about your child.
If you’re able to, schedule check-in times with your children while they’re home alone to see how they’re doing. While it might not fit into your work schedule, it’s important to know what they’re up to when you’re away from home. Home security systems are also a good option to keep track of your kids. Text alerts can be sent from certain systems when different unlock codes are used upon entry to your home. And even more advanced systems allow you to peek inside your home with your smartphone and cameras installed in your home. The cost of a security system is an investment but is less than an all-day babysitter all summer long.
About the Authors: First Security provides home security services from their home office in Ellicott City, Maryland, offering three times the protection at half the cost of competitors. Their blog has lots of home security tips, including posts like Is Your Son Really Safer Than Your Daughter?, Why Hide-A-Keys Are a Bad Idea, and more home alone security tips.
Disclaimer: Not every child is capable of or should be left home alone. If you plan to leave your child at home alone, ensure your child is of age and maturity to be left alone and conform with local and state laws.