Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When Is It Safe to Leave Kids Home Alone?

We leave our children with babysitters, teachers, child care workers and other parents, but when is it safe to leave them home alone? The most common age for children to stay home alone is usually 12 years old. Most states have not enacted legislation regarding the age when children can be left unsupervised. Therefore, it is up to the parent to make a responsible decision that is most appropriate for both them and the child.

A child should not be left home alone until both the parent and child are ready. It is normal for parents to feel a little anxious when they first leave their child home alone. The parent will need to feel that the child can be trusted to be responsible when left unsupervised.

The experience of being home alone requires the child to be more independent. The child will need to feel confident and safe. It is important to prepare and teach the child some safety rules. For example, a child should know what to do in case of an emergency, if someone comes to the door, or if a stranger calls. Phone numbers need to be available. The parent should also be able to get in contact with the child by phone at all times. The child also needs to be sure that he or she can get a hold of the parent if necessary.

When leaving children home alone, it is best to start with short periods of time so both the parent and child can become accustomed to this new responsibility that the child is entrusted with. It is best to start with a few practice runs lasting a half hour or so with the parent nearby and easily accessible. It can eventually build up to a couple of hours as long as the parent and child are comfortable with the arrangements.

There should be clear rules when children stay home alone and unsupervised. First, they must understand the importance of following the rules for their safety. Some rules can include:

> Do not answer the door (or phone, unless it is parent)
> Keep doors and windows locked
> Do not leave house while parent is gone
> Have contact phone numbers readily available
> Complete assigned chores or homework
> Depending on age, there should be specific rules about cooking and kitchen safety
> Have set TV time and shows allowed
> Have computer/internet rules

Leaving children home alone is something all parents eventually have to do as their children become more independent. By taking simple steps to set some rules and make it safe, it can be a very good, growing experience for both children and their parents.

"Safety First" is "Safety Always." ~Charles M. Hayes

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. ~- Marie Curie

When you're prepared, you're more confident. When you have a strategy, you're more comfortable. ~Fred Couples

Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.  ~Lady Bird Johnson

The best training any parent can give a child is to train the child to train himself. ~A. P. Gouthey

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders. ~Abigail Van Buren

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him. ~Booker T. Washington

Copyright © 2010 Krystal Kuehn, New Day Counseling Center. All Rights Reserved.

Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC is a licensed professional counselor, author, teacher, and musician. She specializes in helping people live their best life now, reach their full potential, overcome barriers, heal from their past, and develop a lifestyle of health, happiness, and love. Krystal is the cofounder of NewDayCounseling.org, a marriage counseling, family counseling center, specializing in helping individuals, couples and families with professional counseling services for relationship problems, parenting issues, depression, anxiety as well a s substance abuse classes, anger management groups, and more. Krystal is also cofounder of StopSuicideSong.com and BeHappy4Life.com as well as Facebook.com/WordsOfInspiration and several blogs.

New Day Counseling is a family couples counseling center that provides professional counseling services for the entire family. We help parents, children, teens, families, individuals and couples. We offer relationship counseling, couples counseling / marriage therapy, child therapy, adolescent counseling, anxiety counseling, depression counseling, divorce counseling, grief counseling, porn addiction counseling, substance abuse counseling. We also offer groups for anger counseling. Go to NewDayCounseling.org today for more information or call us at 248-649-8050. We are here to help, and we look forward to hearing from you.

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