Can I leave my 10-year-old home alone?
If you’re the parent of a 10-year-old and you’re wondering whether when it will be okay to leave your child home alone, you’re in good company. It’s one of the most common parenting questions. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. While most children develop the maturity and the skills to be safe while home alone sometime between the ages of 10 and 12, every child is different, and some are ready to stay home alone before others. So how do you know when your child is ready? Look for these things:
- Your child can do things independently. They get themselves dressed and ready for school in the morning. They can fix themselves light meals and snacks, like a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. When they get a small scrape, they know where to find the home first aid kit and can put on a Band-aid® without help.
- They have taken a home alone safety course. Children that take a home alone safety course, like Safe@Home, learn the skills they need to be safe while home alone. For example, Safe@Home students learn what to do if someone calls or knocks on the door when they are home alone. They also learn how to handle household emergencies like what to do if the power goes out or they smell smoke. In addition, they learn basic first aid skills and how to call for help from a back-up adult or 9-1-1 when necessary.
- They are confident. If your child is afraid to stay home alone, that’s sign that you should wait a while. Your child may not be emotionally ready to be left home alone. Sign them up for a home alone course so that they develop skills to handle potentially dangerous situations. Encourage them when they do things independently. Finally, give them time to mature.
- Your child is in an appropriate environment. Before leaving your child home alone, ask yourself if your child is in a safe environment with access to everything they need to stay safe and healthy. Of course, this includes basics such as proper locks on doors and windows, working smoke alarms, food, running water, first aid supplies, and a phone. They should also have the phone number to reach you, as well as the cell phone number of a back-up adult that is close by, like a neighbor or family friend. In addition, clearly post the phone number for emergency services (9-1-1) and Poison control (1-800-222-1222) in a visible place.
- You’ve done some successful test runs. Start with short trips away from home – to a neighbor’s house down the street or to the corner drugstore to pick up a few things, for example. If these short trips have been handled successfully, your child may be ready to be home alone for an hour or two.
Finally, don’t assume that children who are ready to stay home alone are also ready to babysit younger siblings. Babysitting is a big responsibility and requires additional training in child care, injury prevention, and rescue skills. When your child is ready to babysit, look for a Safe Sitter® class in your area.