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Parenting Advice for Home-Alone Kids

Written by Elizabeth Pantley

Allowing children to stay home unsupervised offers them independence and parents newfound freedom. Learn how to make this family milestone a success.

Letting children stay home alone offers kids a new level of responsibility and gives parents a new found, long-awaited, much deserved, eagerly anticipated, exuberant feeling of freedom (oh, did I get carried away there), says Elizabeth Pantley, author of Perfect Parenting. But as liberating as it all sounds, don't rush. Take your time to plan and prepare for success.

More Home Alone Advice:
If you have more than one child, decide in advance which one will be in charge or if they'll share equal responsibility.
Clearly identify the rules.
Decide how arguments should be resolved while you are gone.

Start with rules
With your children's help, create a list of rules that will apply when they're home alone. Include specific "do's" such as homework, chores, etc., and "don'ts" such as answer the door, use the stove or tie up younger siblings. Include a list of acceptable activities, specify the amount of TV they can watch, and what foods they can eat. The more you cover up front, the less problems you'll have later on.

Emergency training
Provide your children with emergency training. Many hospitals, YMCAs or schools offer classes for children who want to babysit. Option: Have all your children take the training, not just the oldest one. Provide a list of important telephone numbers near the phone (not buried under a pile of old mail).

Write the main emergency number on the telephone itself. If your city does not have a 911 system that provides your address upon calling, make sure your address and driving directions to your home are also written on the emergency pad. Provide your children with the telephone number of a trusted nearby adult.

Be prepared
Discuss or role-play various situations that my come up. Ask, "What would you do if?" questions to be certain your children are prepared.

What if you lose your house key?

What if someone comes to the door?

What if you're hungry?

What if you need help on your homework?

What if Dad's not home exactly at 5?

How will you answer the phone?

When would it be OK to call me at work?