8 Signs Your Child Is Ready to Stay Home Alone
If you’re anything like us, you plan to start leaving your kid home without adult supervision when he’s at a perfectly reasonable age. Like 27. But some parenting pundits suggest doing so sooner (Like WAY sooner. Like 9!), claiming it fuels independence, personal responsibility and confidence. Here are eight indicators your little Kevin McCallister is mature enough to fend for himself—for an hour at least.
He’s comfortable making calls
Time to undo a decade of screen limits and actually hand him your phone—for practice. If he’s accustomed to dialing numbers, he’ll be better prepared to do so in an emergency, whether he’s calling 911, your cell to ask a question (“How many hours of Ninjago am I allowed to watch again?”) or the local pizzeria. You could also role-play: Practice how he should answer the phone without revealing an adult isn't home.
She’s been schooled in basic safety
The Red Cross offers online first aid classes for kids as young as 11. If she knows essential fire safety protocol, broad strokes CPR and has been trained never to open the door for a stranger, you’ll feel safer—and she’ll feel empowered—when you run out to the store. PS: Locking away hazardous materials (are there still matches near that amazing French candle in your bathroom?) never hurt anyone.
Your emergency contact list is on the fridge
If he needs help and you’re unreachable, he should know exactly who to call: a neighbor, a relative, your bestie; experts recommend kids have access to at least three nearby adults. Pre-program his phone with their numbers. Then inform those backup grown-ups of their special status—and (why not?) your exact schedule.
He knows his vital stats
Full name. Address. Phone number. Kids as young as three can memorize this info if it’s presented to them in song, so it’s never too soon to start singing him your cell number to the tune of “Jingle Bells” (it totally works btw). Come up with a code word he can say to indicate he needs help. And every family should have a designated “safe place” where they plan to meet up in the unlikely event of a crisis (a neighbor’s house, a nearby fire station, a local place of worship). Some call it paranoid; we call it prepared.
She makes good decisions
If your kid is impulsive, has a tendency to panic or is easily swayed to the dark side by dominant playmates, you’ll want to wait until maturity kicks in (after 12, experts say) before testing these waters. If you’re still on the fence, hire a hands-off sitter for light supervision—and get her full report.
She can make her own food
Stock the fridge with pre-cooked, microwave-ready meals and the pantry with ingredients that don’t require using the stove. She who feeds herself shall rule the world.
He knows—and respects—the house rules
Make it clear you’re still in charge, whether you’re home or not. Discuss your rules and expectations before you leave (limits on screen-time, a to-do list of chores, homework). And spy away with an app-accessible digital cam while you’re gone.
He tells you he’s ready
As with all things parenting, communication is key. If your kid swears he’s ready to go it alone, he more than likely is. Kids are unlikely to bluff their way into a situation that scares them. On the other hand, if he’s turning on all the lights, blasting the radio or expressing anxiety in other ways when you leave home, he may not actually be ready.