Is your child ready to stay home alone?
There is no magic age when children develop the maturity
and good sense they need to stay alone. Some children display these
abilities around age 12, or even sooner; others do so when they’re
older. There are signs that show your child may be ready. For example, if
your child can get ready for school on time, do homework with little
assistance, and talk to you about his or her feelings, he or she may be
ready to stay home alone.
When assessing your child’s readiness to stay home
alone, you’ll want to consider his or her maturity in four areas:
physical, mental, social and emotional. The following checklist will help
you evaluate your child’s readiness. You may have to do some
detective work to answer these questions. Try asking your child to
open a window, fix a sandwich, take a message, and answer the door.
Play “What if?” games to learn if your child could handle emergency
situations safely. Ask, for example, what should be done if the
smoke alarm sounds or if he or she gets a bad cut when home alone.
Whenever possible, have your child act out his or her response.
Sometimes children can give the right answer but can’t do what is
Physical readiness - Is your child able to:
- Lock and unlock the doors and windows of your home? Yes/No
- Perform everyday tasks such as fixing a sandwich, dialing the telephone, and writing messages? Yes/No
Mental readiness - Does your child:
- Tell time? Yes/ No
- Understand what “stranger” and “emergency” mean? Yes/ No
- Recognize danger and know how to stay safe? Yes/ No
- Solve small problems on his or her own, but know when to get help? Yes/No
- Consider how his or her actions affect others? Yes/No
Social readiness - Does your child:
- Solve conflicts with brothers and sisters with little help from adults? Yes/ No
- Talk easily to you about what happens at school, and about his or her feelings? Yes/ No
- Feel confident enough to contact another adult if a problem arises? Yes/ No
Emotional readiness - Does your child:
- Feel confident and secure when alone? Yes/ No
- Seem willing to stay alone? Yes/ No
- Know how to handle fear, loneliness and boredom? Yes/No
- Know how to handle responsibility such as getting ready for school on time and looking out for younger brothers and sisters? Yes/ No
If you can answer “yes” to most of the questions in
the checklist, your child is showing signs of the physical, mental,
social, and emotional maturity needed to stay home alone. Your
child needs to be capable in each of these four areas before he or she
will be safe and secure.