Is your child ready to stay at home without a babysitter? Here are a few guidelines to follow and ideas to make it easier on everyone!
Is your child ready?
Your area may have a municipal bylaw or recommendation of the appropriate age for a child to be left alone, so that's a good place to start. A general rule of thumb is a minimum age of 10–12 years, depending on several factors:
- The maturity level of your child
- If your child is ready and comfortable with the idea
- His or her knowledge of safety and emergency procedures
- Your child's knowledge of the home (using kitchen appliances, the alarm system and door locks, for example)
- Your child's ability to follow rules and instructions
- The overall safety of your neighbourhood
- The availability of close neighbours and emergency contacts to help out if necessary
Sign your child up for a babysitting course
In many communities, a child as young as 11 can take the course, which focuses on safety and child care. This will help boost your child's confidence (and yours) in regards to staying home alone.
Test out the waters
Before your child's staying home alone becomes a necessity, test it out and see how he or she manages. Try leaving your child alone for an hour or two while you run errands. A phase-in period will allow your child to feel responsible and independent while giving you the security of knowing you can run home at any time.
Set up the ground rules
The ground rules can be dependent on the age and maturity level of your child, but they should address these topics:
- Computer use
- Having friends over
- Answering the door and telephone safely
- The use of video games and watching TV
- Playing outside
- Using the stove or other kitchen appliances
Leave specific instructions
Whether your child is home alone for only a few hours or all day long, make sure to leave specific instructions outside of your normal ground rules. Include these ideas when applicable:
- Pet care
- Homework or reading time
- Specific foods he or she is not allowed to eat
- Chores that are to be done
- Scheduled contact times
Other helpful ideas
- Program your cell phone number into your child's cell and your home landline. Add it as the ICE (in case of emergency) contact.
- Have at least two other emergency contacts for your child, including one or more close neighbours. If your neighbours aren't on the contact list and you know them, ask if your child can turn to them in the event of an emergency, such as choking or a fire.
- Have a few practice fire drills.
- Prevent boredom by supplying books, magazines, games, art projects, movies and video games.
- Set out or label approved snacks and meals.
- Remind your child not to tell anyone they will be staying alone.
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