Should You Ever Leave Your Kids Alone At Home?

Should You Ever Leave Your Kids Alone At Home?

Wondering whether or not you can safely leave your kids alone at home is not a philosophical question, but a practical one. Sometimes, you may not be able to arrange childcare or a childcare arrangement falls through at the last minute. This may happen at the worst of times—when you have to go to work and it’s a snow day from school or when you have to leave the house to take care of an emergency.

The best way to prepare for the possibility of a situation like this is well ahead of time. For starters, ensure that your alarm monitoring security systems are in place. Next, make sure that your kids have family or friends that they can call for situations that aren’t emergencies but that do require some adult suggestions over the phone to sort out. Finally, you might even do some mockup rehearsals or even trial runs.


What to Consider

Here is a list of some things to consider when deciding whether or not it’s possible to leave your kids alone. If it’s not possible, then you will just have to cancel work or refuse to rush out of the house on any rescue missions. It’s completely irresponsible, for example, to leave a five-year-old child or younger to fend for themselves in your absence regardless of how short a time it might be.

1. Age

The age of your child is the prime consideration. Leaving preschool children home alone is not an option while a high school student can probably manage things fairly well on their own. Those are fairly clear-cut distinctions, but the question becomes a little dicey when we’re talking about kids in grade school. Then it’s a judgment call. Generally speaking, if your child is younger than 10 years old, you should not leave them home alone. They may not be able to respond to an emergency.

2. Maturity

Just because a child is old enough to look after themselves does not mean that they can. If your child does not know how to fix a meal or is going to wreck the house with a wild party, then they should not be considered mature enough to be left alone at home.

Here are some questions to ask to determine if your child is mature:.

* 1. Does your child have a sense of responsibility? Does he or she do their homework, complete their household chores, or follow directions about observing summer safety tips.

* 2. Does your child know how to handle an emergency? Are they likely to call for help or will they completely freak out if there is an emergency?

* 3. Does your child know how to follow household rules, including taking safety measures or do they tune out almost everything you say?

* 4. Is your child likely to be duped by strangers at the door who might be trying to con them to get in with stories about how their car just broke down and they need to call for emergency towing.

* 5. Does your child know how to look after themselves, like knowing how to use the microwave or use first-aid procedures?

When considering maturity, you also have to take feelings into account.

What does your child feel about the idea? Some kids freak out and don’t even know if they can call for help if there is any sort of problem. Other kids think the idea of being alone at home is perfectly fine.

You also have to think about your own emotions. If you’re going to be highly anxious all day long at work because your child is home alone, then it may be better to just call in sick or cancel the business appointment that is pulling you out of the house.

3. Ability

A child may be old enough or mature enough to look after themselves but may not be able to do so because of a disability or an illness that makes them unable to physically take care of themselves.

4. Neighborhood

The type of neighborhood you live in has a lot to do with whether or not it’s safe to leave your kids alone. Do you live among friendly neighbors or are you surrounded by strangers? Do you live in a busy city or in a quiet country town? Is there much crime in and around your neighborhood? Obviously, the worse the environment, the less likely you should be to leave your kids alone.

5. Laws

You also have to consider if it’s legal for a parent to leave a child alone at home. According to FindLaw: “Only a couple of states have laws that specify the age when a child can be left home alone, including Maryland (age 8) and Illinois (age 14). However, most states have guidelines with the Department of Health and Human Services or other child protective agencies that test a child’s ability to be left home alone.”

Thinking Ahead

By thinking ahead, you’ll know what decision to make when the time comes. You probably won’t have much time to think about what to do if you are called out of the house while your kids are home, but by thinking ahead of time, you’ll know what to tell the boss if he calls and asks you to fill in for someone who didn’t show up or a friend stranded at the airport looking for a way to get into town.

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