Most parents get to the point where they ask themselves when it is okay for their child to be left home alone. When our son got older, I googled everything I could find. I quickly realized that there really are not a lot of “laws” regarding this. In fact, most states do not have laws that address this question. North Carolina Included.
There are a lot of laws that basically say you cannot endanger your child or put them in harm’s way but, in the majority of states, there is not an “age” listed that you can leave a child unsupervised. So that leaves a pretty big gray area for parents.
Tip: If you want to know your local laws reach out to your local child welfare agency.
We have all had those days where we need to go get gas, run a quick errand, or pick up dinner. You think to yourself, should I just leave my kid here. It will be fast. The reality is there are a lot of factors to consider before you make that decision and kids need to be prepared before they are left home alone.
Here are some of the things you should think about or prepare your child for if you are going to leave them home alone. Surprisingly, a lot of it is not age related.
You should make sure your home is safe for a child to be home alone. That means secure your alcohol, firearms, chemicals, and anything that may be a danger. A child can be told 1000 times not to do something and they will still do it. You can never be too safe.
Have a fire escape plan. This is so important. God forbid your house caught on fire. Would your child know what to do? What if they are on a second floor? Would they know where to go? As soon as your child is old enough, you should create a fire safety plan in your home and review it regularly.
Make sure your child knows where the first aid kit is and how to use it. If they are going to be home alone, they should understand what to do if an emergency were to happen. If they have allergies, do they know how to use their epi pen? Teach them how to bandage a bleeding wound properly.
Teach them when, why, and how to call 911 or make an emergency call on a phone. Best advice would be to never leave a child home without a phone. They need to be able to contact you (which also means knowing your phone number) and they need to be able to call 911 for help should they need it. Along with knowing your phone number, teach them your address. That way if they need to call for help, they know where to direct the responders.
Lastly, let them know that they should not cook while you are gone. I am extreme and say no eating (in case they choke). I know, I know, I am a little overboard.
Have rules that are set in advance. For example, no friends are allowed over. The last thing you need is to be responsible for someone else’s kid when you are not home. Some other good rules are:
- Do not go outside
- Keep all doors and windows locked
- No rough play
- Complete homework
- Do your chores
- No messes
- Don’t eat all the snacks
Now this is one that you teach from a young age, but you cannot reinforce it enough. Make sure your kids will not open the door or get visible if someone rings the doorbell. It does not matter who it is. If they hear the doorbell, knocking, or notice a vehicle outside they should call you ASAP to make you aware of the situation.
Along with this goes, let them know not to tell people they are home alone. Kids tend to live in an online world these days and may casually tell someone on a game that they are home alone. Be sure that you tell them not to disclose that to friends or anyone they do not know.
Check In Often
Be sure that you call and check in often if you are going to be away for an extended time. That way you can reinforce expectations, ensure they are okay, and let them know you are only a phone call away.
Only you know your child, their maturity level, and if they can handle being left home alone. Hopefully this post has helped you prepare for that day, and you feel more confident in making the decision. I know how hard it is!
Be sure to also check out my post on when you should give their child their first phone.
-Kristy M., Mommy to Many