While some states have laws about the minimum age a child can be left home alone without it being considered neglect, as a parent you’re probably the best judge of when your child is ready for this milestone.
Your child should be able to perform basic self-maintenance tasks on their own, such as getting a snack and a drink, answering the phone, and washing their hands. Beyond this, there’s the issue of safety. Here are some tips on how to keep your child safe when they are home alone.
1. Make a Plan
First, make a plan and establish a routine for your child’s time alone. Include the tips listed below and anything else you think of. Include an emergency plan, such as what your child should do in case of natural disaster, fire, or other emergency.
2. Answering the Door and Telephone
As you make your plan for your child’s time alone, practice answering the door and telephone. Teach your child to take messages or tell your child not to pick up the phone unless it’s you calling or someone they know.
Answering the door has more potential for danger. You might want to instruct your child simply not to answer the door at all while you’re gone or give them a list of people who are safe.
3. Friends Allowed
If it’s okay with you and another child’s parents, you might want to arrange to let your child’s friend come over during your absence. Make sure these arrangements are clear and made ahead of time, and let your child know that no other friends are allowed to come over at that time except the pre-approved one.
4. Call and Check In
Call your child and check up on them frequently, making sure they know to call you back if they can’t get to the phone when you call. Consider giving your child a cell phone so that you can always track them down.
5. Emergency Numbers
Speaking of telephones, keep a list of important phone numbers where your child can easily see them. This should include 911, key family members and friends, and the nearest poison control center.