School holidays, after school times and summer present challenges for families when parents work. Finding suitable care for children is tricky, particularly when usual arrangements fall through or kids tell you they are too old to be looked after.
When Is the Right Age to Let Kids Stay Home Alone?
It’s no wonder that many parents look forward to the day when you don’t have to pay for child care. But how do you know when the time is right to let your child stay home alone? My son, who is 9-years-old, goes to an after-school program and then goes to full-time daycare during the summer. However, my husband and I are debating putting him in summer camps and forgoing daycare. But then we’ll lose his spot for next year for after-school care. After this summer, is he old enough to walk home by himself and be home alone until we arrive?
There are a lot of factors that need to be ironed out before deciding if he is ready to be left home alone. However, registration is open for summer camps and our daycare provider would like to know if he’s coming back. First the logistics—we needed to get the house ready. We had to install a new keypad garage door opener, so he’s not fumbling with keys. Then, we installed a ring doorbell and a camera inside the house. Lastly, we enabled his iPad to make phone calls only to the people we programmed in. Now that I feel comfortable with the house, I needed to see if Cohen was ready.
Train Your Kids on Being Home Alone
Leaving kids on their own for short periods is good training for independence and problem solving. I would take a five-minute trip to visit to a neighbor, a twenty-minute walk around the block or a quick trip to the supermarket—these were great opportunities to leave Cohen unattended for short periods. He and his younger sister were never home alone together. I know he’s not ready to take on the responsibility of him and his little sister.
As I have said before, Cohen is my good kid. He’s capable of managing problems or unforeseen circumstances, such as a stranger knocking on the door. He isn’t easily flustered by unknown circumstances. We have discussed different scenarios like what he should do in a power failure or what to do if there was a fire. We also discussed what neighboring houses he can go to in case of an emergency. If school is let out early or he has a random day off, he will have someone there to watch him. A couple hours after school is long enough—not the entire day.
Trust Your Kids to Do the Right Things
Leaving children at home on their own involves an element of trust. I feel comfortable that Cohen will behave well and can keep himself safe. We laid out our expectations about his behavior, his activities, his use of digital devices, the food he can eat and who is able to visit—no one! We will be clear with our expectations and let him know that we trust him to do the right thing.
We as parents need to think carefully about many things before leaving our children alone. Putting children in situations they can handle can help teach them independence and responsibility. But asking too much too soon can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation. I’m sure when the summer is over and the school year is starting I may feel a little more anxious. But for now, we will practice until we all feel comfortable.
So at what age do you feel comfortable leaving your children home alone?