It’s impossible to turn on the news or browse online feeds without seeing something negative that strengthens the idea we live in a dangerous time. In particular, a time where you cannot take your eyes off your children even for a second.
Absolutely, the world can be dangerous, but it is no less safe today than it was years ago. It just seems that way because we’re more connected, more open and there’s a lot more going on in the public eye.
Still, enough happens to warrant at least a little paranoia when it comes to your children. Keeping them safe should remain priority number one, and few would make an argument against that.
So, is it really okay to leave your kids home alone while you run errands, or make your way home from work? What if, say, their bus drops them off at 3:30 to 4 and you don’t get home until 5, leaving them an hour to themselves?
You might do it out of necessity, but is it truly okay?
At a Certain Age, Children Need to Learn Independence
Leaving a child home alone before they’re ready is never a good idea. While deciding to, you should consider more than age — their maturity level should also factor in. Some children act more mature for their age than others.
But beyond all the warnings and requirements, honor the importance of teaching your kids some level of independence.
Rather than feeling nervous or unprepared to leave your children home alone, recognize the milestone as a step toward independence for your child.
Someday, you want them to survive on their own, regardless of where you are. It doesn’t mean you won’t be around, but they will need to stand on their own two feet. Leaving them home alone at the appropriate age plays a part in that — you teach them self-sufficiency if only for a short period.
The question remains — when should they experience that independence?
When Are Kids Ready to Be Home Alone?
What signs show your kids can handle being home alone? What should you look for? It’s important to evaluate your kids’ maturity levels and assess adequate safety skills before leaving them alone for the first time, but let’s explore this a little further.
If you notice these traits in your children, they’re probably ready to spend some time alone:
- Can your child physically and mentally care for themselves or others? Can they get food, start their homework or walk home themselves?
- Does your child obey the rules and make good decisions? Does this positive behavior continue when you are not around?
- How does your child respond to unfamiliar or stressful situations?
- Do they understand how to avoid or protect themselves from hazards in the home? Do they know not to toy with the oven, for instance?
- Is your neighborhood and surrounding community safe?
- Are there contacts nearby that could aid them, such as a family member or a trustworthy neighbor?
Check your local laws as well. Some places say it’s ok to leave a kid between eight and 10, and others they need to be 11 to 14.
Finally, it’s also important to consider your kids’ feelings. Are they comfortable being home alone? Intimidation or nervousness is natural, obviously, but if they appear frightened to the point it causes them duress it’s never a good idea to go forward. You might want to consider getting them a babysitter or supervisor.
Use your best judgment, really that’s what any parent should do in regards to how they raise their children. Everyone will be different, and that means everyone will do things differently.
When you do eventually decide it’s time for them to stay home alone, there are some precautions you can do to improve their safety and comfort.
How to Secure Your Home for Your Children
One of the best ways to improve your child’s security and boost their comfort — as well as your own — involves installing smart home devices and security tools. A security camera mounted inside your doorway will show you when your children arrive home. A smart lock might tell you when they unlock the door and whether or not it locked behind them. If they forget, you can lock it remotely from a mobile app. Have a security system installed, or install a system yourself using smart home security tech.
Similar devices allow you to interact with your child even when you’re not home. An Amazon Echo Show or smart home display will allow you to video call and check in. You can do this easily with a smartphone or tablet too.
Besides modern gadgets, you can also make some other changes to prepare your home. Consider installing premium door locks and handles to boost overall security. Automate your lighting to look like someone else is home. Ask neighbors to keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior or unwarranted comings and goings. Establish a rigid schedule with your children and encourage them to follow it until you arrive home.
Make A Decision Right for Your Child
All preparation and advanced thinking will contribute to a better, safer experience for your children, whether you’re home or not. Use your best judgment to decide when it feels appropriate to leave your kids home alone or not.
Photo provided by the author.