Deciding the age at which your child can safely stay home alone isn’t easy, and because no two children are developmentally identical, age-based guidelines are sometimes too simplistic to be reliable. The potential for childhood harm or injury is greater in the absence of parents, but ample preparation prior to an absence can help reduce the risks. That’s why the Nemours Foundation, through their website, KidsHealth.Org, offers the following advice for parents to help prepare young children to stay home alone safely: "Schedule time to get in touch. Set up a schedule for calling. You might have your child call as soon as he or she walks in the door (if coming home to an empty house), or set up a time when you’ll call home to check in. Figure out something that’s convenient for both of you. Make sure your child understands when you’ll be able to get in touch and when you might not be able to answer a call.
Set ground rules. Try to set up some special rules for when you’re away and make sure that your child knows and understands them. Consider rules about:
Stock up. Make sure your house has everyday goods and emergency supplies. Stock the kitchen with healthy foods your child can eat, and leave a dose of any medication that your child needs to take. In addition, leave flashlights in an accessible place in case there’s a power outage. Post important phone numbers — yours and those of friends, family members, the doctor, police, and fire department — that your child might need in an emergency.
- having a friend or friends over while you’re not there
- rooms of the house that are off limits, especially with friends
- TV time and types of shows
- Internet and computer rules
- kitchen and cooking (you may want to make the oven and utensils like sharp knives off limits)
- opening the door for strangers
- answering the phone
- getting along with siblings
- not telling anyone he or she is alone
Be sure that you:
Childproof your home. No matter how well your child follows rules, be sure to secure anything that could be a health or safety risk. Lock them up and put them in a place where your child cannot get to them or, when possible, remove them from your home. These items include:
- Create a list of friends your child can call or things your child can do when he or she is lonely.
- Leave a snack or a note so your child knows you’re thinking of him or her.
- Make up a schedule for your child to follow while you’re away.
- Make sure the parental controls and filtering systems, if you have any, are programmed for the Internet on your computer and on your television.