When Your Child is Afraid to Stay Home Alone


Sooner or later, most tweens (age 10-13) will spend some time home alone, whether out of a busy parent’s necessity or because they’re being gently eased into greater independence. Some children readily take to the idea of being home alone. It’s what they’ve been waiting for! To them, it’s exciting and makes them feel more grown up. Others understandably need reassurance about assuming what they view as a new and scary responsibility.

So, what do you do if your child falls into the latter category and sees time spent home alone as intimidating?

Often, fear of staying home alone is due to the unknown. Talk with your child about their fears and the “what ifs” that make them nervous. Discuss scenarios of what could happen and how best to react. For guidance on topics to discuss and how, consider a program like Safe@Home. This 90-minute program teaches small groups of 4th-6th graders the safety skills and first aid skills needed to stay home alone. Any adult may teach Safe@Home, so you can bring the program to your community by approaching teachers, nurses, Girl Scout troop leaders, or youth group leaders about teaching. Visit Safe@Home for more info on the program and how to purchase it.

Small Steps Toward Self-Sufficiency

Once you’ve had the home alone conversation with your child, ease them into the experience by allowing them to look after themselves for short periods of time, say when you run a quick errand nearby. Make sure your child has access to emergency help by posting the following numbers near your home phone and/or programming them into your child’s cell phone:

  • 9-1-1 for emergencies
  • your work and cell phone numbers
  • the phone number of a back-up adult such as a relative or neighbor
  • Poison Control 1-800-222-1222
  • your home address

When you return home, chat with your child about how the experience was for them. Small tastes of independence will slowly empower your child and make them feel less afraid. Further encourage your child’s growing self-sufficiency by heaping lots of praise on them whenever they’ve shown the confidence to stay home alone, no matter the length of time. With each positive home alone experience, your child will see themselves as capable of caring for themselves, and you’ll proudly enjoy seeing them blossom into independence!

Check out our Safe@Home program!

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Jennifer Seward

Jennifer Seward

Jennifer has an M.A. in English and years of nonprofit experience. As a writer and former newspaper reporter, she gravitated toward the nonprofit world because she enjoys the vast and inspiring storytelling opportunities found there.
Jennifer Seward