Child Safety At Home

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

One of the realities of today's society is the pressure for children to stay home alone for a short time after school until a parent returns from work. Every day thousands of parents make decisions to leave children home alone while they go to work, run errands, or for social engagements.

Before you leave your child at home alone, you should make sure that he/she feels safe and comfortable and can handle the responsibility. Most children are not ready to be left alone until they are at least eleven or twelve years old, but it will also depend on your child's maturity level.

Some things to review before you leave your child home alone include:

  • Never leave a baby or very young child alone at home, whether asleep or awake, even for a few minutes. It doesn't take long for unsupervised young children or babies to injure themselves.
  • Most children under thirteen should not be left alone for more than a couple of hours.
  • Your child should know his/her full name, address and phone number. He/she should also know how to reach you at work or wherever else that you might be.
  • Make sure that your child knows whom to contact in case of an emergency. Also review what to do in emergency situations, such as a fire. Make sure he knows how to call 911 and know to get out of the house in case of a fire.
  • Your child should learn how to handle situations when he is alone in the house. Such as not to open the door for anyone, even someone who introduces himself as a policemen, not to accept packages or rides from anyone and keep the doors to the house locked when he/she is inside the house.
  • Put obvious dangers out of reach of children, e.g. medicines, chemicals, alcohol, firearms, matches, etc.
  • Make sure that the child is happy about the arrangements and confident about being left.
  • Teach your child how to behave responsibly. Such as he must finish his homework on time, or he must drink his milk when he returns from school. Have a routine that he must perform when he gets home, including locking the door and checking in with you if possible.
  • Be clear about any restrictions that you may have, including not using the stove or other appliances.
  • Leave a list of phone numbers for your child of family members and friends he knows and can contact in case of emergency.

When you finally decide to make the decision to leave your child home alone, make it for a short period of time: say thirty minutes and then build up to an hour. Do this gradually so that you and your child can adjust to the new situation. And do be careful and check with the laws in your area on the ages that children can be left alone.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,