Is my teen ready to stay home alone?
What is the right age to leave my teen home alone?
Every child is different. Some mature faster than others. You know your child better than anyone. There is no set age for leaving your child home alone. Parents have to make this judgement by taking into account their child’s physical and mental abilities.
The National SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends that children not be left alone before the age of 12. However, some children will not be ready until later than that. Also, experts caution that older siblings are generally not ready for the responsibility of supervising younger children until the age of 15 or older. – From Florida Dept. Children and Families
Is my teen ready to be left home alone?
- Is my child comfortable, confident and willing to stay home alone?
- Does my child consistently follow my rules and guidelines?
- Has my child demonstrated good independent judgment and problem-solving skills in the past?
- Is my child able to stay calm and not panic when confronted with unexpected events?
- Have I brainstormed with my child about what unexpected situations could possibly come up while he or she is alone, and how to handle them?
- Is my child consistently truthful with me? Does he or she readily come to me with problems and concerns?
- Does my child understand the importance of safety and know basic safety procedures?
- Will my child make decisions to stay safe, even at the risk of seeming rude or overly cautious to other children or adults?
- Does my child have the ability to calmly provide his/her name, address, phone number and directions to our home in an emergency?
- Can my child lock and unlock the doors and windows of our home?
- Can my child tell time?
- Is my child able to work independently on homework?
- Have my child and I established a clearly structured routine for when he or she is home alone, with defined responsibilities and privileges?
- If I have more than one child staying home, have the children demonstrated the ability to get along well and solve conflicts without physical fighting or adult intervention?
- Have my child and I had some “dry runs” to allow him or her to practice self-care skills while I am at home, but purposefully “not available”?
- Is our neighborhood safe?
- Do we have neighbors that my child and I know and trust?
Do a test run.
Still not sure? Try leaving your child and going to run a small errand such as the grocery store. Ask your child to check in every 15-30 minutes. They can call or text you. If they can successfully check in then this the first step in the right direction. If all goes well then you can think about gradually increasing the time you leave your child alone.
Wait! Before you go read these tips.
Set Up Safety Rules
- Create an emergency contact list. Click HERE for directions.
- Set up I.C.E. info on your teen’s cell phone. You can add a contact to their contact list called I.C.E. If they have and iPhone they can add this info in the Health app.
- Keep doors locked and don’t answer the door unless it is someone you know such as a neighbor or family member.
- No playing outside in front of the house.
- Never tell anyone they are home alone. Especially, on social media!
- Check in with a phone call or text message. Establish times when your child should call/ text to check in.
- Discuss what to do in case of a fire or injury. Make sure your teen knows first aid procedures and where to find those supplies if needed.
General House Rules & Expectations
- Food – Is your child allowed to use the stove? Microwave is a safer option.
- Screen Time – Is your teen allowed to use the computer television, phone, video games, etc.?
- Guests – Can friends or family visit?
- To Do – Make clear if your teen is to work on homework and/ or complete any chores.
- Talk with siblings. If your teen is responsible for their brother and/or sister you need to feel confident that they understand what is expected. Do younger siblings need a snack prepared, or help with homework?
- Consequences – Discuss consequences with your teen if they decide to disobey the rules.
Prep and Practice
Prepare your home before you leave. For example, make sure the smoke alarms are in working order and that you have a stocked first aid kit. Together with your teen role-play answering the door. Try some examples of situations that could occur.