Every one of you, at some point in time, might experience situations where you are compelled to leave your child home alone. Be it work, grocery shopping, or simply taking time out for yourself. So How Old is Old enough for your Kids to be Home Alone? How do you decide when to leave your kids alone? What are precautions that you need to take to ensure your child’s wellbeing? That’s exactly what we’ll discuss in this article.
Before going to the main picture, the first and foremost thing to check is the country you live in. Some countries have a legal age under which no child is allowed to stay alone. For Example, The age at which children in US can be left home alone for short periods of time ranges anywhere from 10 to 12 years, varying from state to state. But in most of the countries, including India, there are no such rules defining the age at which our child can be left alone.
1.) Is your child matured enough?
Now that you have put a tick to the ‘Legal Age’ factor, get into your detective mode and analyze if your child is ready to take up the challenge. Understand if your child is mature enough to take care of themselves. But be careful, comparing your child with their sibling or friend is a big NoNo. Maturity comes with experience and not age. Some kids are too mature even at 8 but some are not, even in their late teens. Also, decide on whether you are leaving your kid alone or with a younger sibling. Taking care of themselves and finding another kid is a different game altogether. In fact, babysitting is a very taxing job even for adults. Consider the behaviour pattern of both your kids and then decide whether to give this added responsibility to your child or not.
2.) Is your child responsible?
Rack your brains to recollect your child’s past behaviour in various instances. Try to analyze how your child works independently, if your child is an obedient rule follower or a risk taker who breaks the rule, how your child behaves if things don’t go as planned, also if your child understands basic safety measures. Once you answer these questions, you would have realized if your child is responsible enough to be left unattended.
3.) Is your child willing to stay alone?
Yes, your child’s opinion matters as much as yours. The goal is to keep the kids comfortable with themselves and at home. If your child is scared of staying alone, strike off this idea from your head even if you feel they are capable of handling themselves. Learning how to stay comfortable in solitude is a skill in itself. We have seen adults running away from the idea of being alone; so do not neglect your child’s opinion else there are chances that it will deeply scar your child.
4.) Decide the amount of Time
The amount of time you leave your child unattended to matters a lot. Your kid might be ready enough to stay home alone for an hour or two in broad daylight, but that doesn’t mean you can leave them alone overnight. Generally, there are 3 different time categories for which you might leave your child alone depending on their age:
- 5-6 years: A couple of minutes in broad daylight
- 6-7 years: 1-2 hours in broad daylight
- 8 years: Few hours in broad daylight
Find out under which category your child would handle themselves better and decide accordingly.
5.) Check your Surroundings
Your child fulfils all the above factors and is now eligible to stay alone or that’s what we think. But is your home and the surrounding area really a safe place? Invest your time to research on the crime rate of your area, if your house is located in a residential area or an isolated corner, if your neighbor is friendly and are willing to check on your kids in case of emergencies and if your home comprises a good security system and if your child is aware of its do’s and don’ts.We can stress on this factor more as the ultimate aim is the child’s safety which can be achieved only by making sure of the surroundings.
6.) Prepare your child
Congratulations!! You checked all the boxes in the checklist and have somehow made up your mind to let your child Home Alone. The very next step is to prepare your child mentally, for the transition. Talk to your child about various safety aspects and listen to their views on the same. Set up a rule book clearly mentioning the Do’s and Don’ts. Transform your home child-friendly. Make sure that you cover the following aspects:
- List of phone numbers (including parents, neighbours, friends & emergency numbers) in a place accessible to the child
- Get in touch with your child regularly and insist your child do the same in case of emergencies
- Teaching telephone etiquettes to your child.
- Remove the unsafe items (like knives, sharp items, poisonous liquids etc) from your child’s vicinity.
- Ensuring the activities that your child is allowed to do in your absence.
- Communicate with your child to know if they are ok with this setup.
- Keep back up arrangements in place in case of emergencies.
Remember! Preparation and communication is the key to make things work
7.) Trial run
Also, do not forget to have a trial run. Leave your child home alone for short period of time ensuring that you stay nearby and monitor your child’s behaviour. Give them the practice to handle various day to day situations and also the steps to take in case of emergencies. Let your child know that you trust them and are always willing to change the arrangements in case they feel uncomfortable.
It is understandable that your head might spin imagining the possible risks involved. But as parents, it’s your duty to help a child transform into an adult who is independent, responsible and confident enough to face any challenge. To achieve that, it is very important to teach them to take care of themselves right from childhood. It is impossible to keep them in our bubble forever, and thus we need to let them handle activities that might involve some risk factors. Look at the brighter side and enjoy your time away from the chaos!