Can your child stay home alone without you arranging for a sitter to come? SheKnows offers some tips to help you determine if your child is ready to stay home without a babysitter.

Home alone

Check the laws

There is no one “right” age when letting your child stay home alone is OK, but many state laws can provide its residents with guidelines to help parents determine what’s approved in their home states. Considering your child’s age is important (for example, if he’s 6, call the sitter), but his maturity level is the real bar by which you should be making your decision.

Responsibility

Is your child responsible enough to know — and follow — basic rules of your home? Does she have the desire to stay home by herself? Being in an empty home for the first time can be scary for any child, so make sure your child is not only responsible enough for this task but also eager to try staying home without the sitter. We realize in some instances she may not have the choice but it’s important to give her the option if possible.

Check out these 7 ways to teach your child responsibility >>

Set boundaries

The first time you leave your child home without a sitter, set some initial boundaries like never opening the door to a stranger, not going swimming or using the stove, not having friends over, etc.

Trust

Trust that your child is willing and able to take on this responsibility. And also trust your gut. If you think that your child isn’t ready for any reason, maybe it’s not quite time to delete the sitter’s number from your contacts.

Find out if you can really trust your teen >>

Prep your child

Before you go out, let your child know where you’ll be (including address and phone number) and when you plan to be back. If you are close with one of the neighbors in your area or have a friend nearby, give them a heads up that you’ll be leaving your child home alone for the first time and put them on “standby” in case your child needs to get in touch with someone before you can get home. Meanwhile when you are out, keep your cell handy at all times but...

Resist the urge to constantly check in

It’s been three minutes since you backed out of the driveway and you’re already wanting to text or call to check in on your child. Resist the urge! Checking in too much could send your child a message that you don’t really trust him.

Give yourself a curfew

While your child is getting used to staying home alone, make your first stints out of the house short ones. Make sure you’re close enough to your home that you can get back in a timely manner in case there is a real emergency or your child simply gets spooked.

Give encouragement

When you return home, make sure to let your child know how proud you are that she is mature enough to take on this big responsibility. Reinforce her confidence and independence. And give yourself a little pat on the back, too — you just saved some serious cash by not having to pay the sitter!

Why pocket money can also help your child become more independent >>

More on...

Teaching responsibility and chores
The kids' home alone debate: What the right age?
Nurturing independence at any age

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Comments

Comments on "Is your child ready to stay home without a babysitter? "

Bridget June 06, 2012 | 2:44 PM

I agree with Michelle that it's important to constantly remind kids of safety and phone numbers in case of an emergency. If the child is trustworthy, I think it's fine to leave them alone for a short period of time. Maybe start by running a quick errand and leaving them alone? See how they do and if it's something they even want. I know when I was younger I loved being left alone, but some kids prefer to have a babysitter.

Michelle2010 June 03, 2012 | 11:26 AM

My kids ages 12,8 and 5 know the evacuation plan in our house if ever in danger or even stays on the nearby park. We talk about fire safety, stranger danger and even other emergencies including intruders. I also reiterate which neighbors to go to for help minutes before walking out the door. I double-check their memories for my cell phone number on a regular basis. Keeping these conversations relatively routine keeps me confident that they will know how to respond to most situations. To ensure their safety while home alone I have provided them a mobile application for safety and protection from Safekidzone.

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