With back-to-school season in full swing, you may be considering allowing your child to stay home alone after class, which can be more convenient and economically feasible than an after school program for parents that work away from home.
Parents often wonder what the “right” age is to leave children alone, and there is no clear-cut answer. In fact, the majority of states (including New York) do not have laws stipulating at what age a child can be left unsupervised. The appropriate age varies based on the individual child’s level of maturity.
Is your child old enough ?
To evaluate whether your child is ready, there are a few things you should ask yourself the following questions :
- Does your child already demonstrate personal responsibility with things like homework and chores?
- Does he display good judgment in unexpected situations?
If you believe your child is prepared, set up a trial run and let your child stay home while you run a quick errand nearby. Continue practicing with longer periods away until you both feel comfortable. Once you are ready for the real thing, sit down with your child and set some guidelines. Consider establishing ground rules about:
- Opening the door to strangers
- Checking in with you
- Having friends over
- Completing chores
- Doing homework
- TV and computer time limits
- Answering the phone
Hope for the best but always prepare for the worst
After going over your expectations, give your child a list of people they can contact if you are unavailable. Review basic safety precautions like locking doors and activating your home security system. You should also discuss procedures for emergency situations; make sure your child knows how to dial 911, prepare for severe weather, and react in the event of a fire.
Before you leave, set aside healthy snacks that your child can have if he gets hungry before dinner. You should also put harmful things like medications, weapons, tobacco, and alcohol out of reach. Remember that however responsible and trustworthy your child is, unnecessary temptation can lead to lead to trouble.
Be cautious about leaving your child home for extended periods; even the most independent children can get lonely if they spend long hours by themselves. Ask a neighbor or family friend to drop in on your child if you know you are going to be working late.
While leaving children alone can be a source of anxiety for some parents, it can give children a sense of responsibility and teach them to take care of themselves.
If you are still having questions about leaving your child, let Slomin's advanced home security system allow you remotely keep an eye on your children while you’re at work.