Is it Time to Ditch the Babysitter? 

Signs your Child is Ready to
Stay Home Alone

From the moment you have kids, a simple social engagement becomes more complicated:

“Can I take my kids with me?”
“If not, who’s available to watch them?”
“Can I afford the added expense of babysitting?”
“Are they somebody I trust?”

These questions become common vernacular for parents until one day, you begin to see your child mature and start to wonder whether they need a babysitter anymore. 

Shifting from child care to allowing your children to stay home alone is a decision all parents have to make; and there’s no right answer. Unlike voting or wearing a seat belt, nobody can give a finite answer, such as: “your child is allowed to stay home alone at 12 years old.” Every family is different as every child has different needs and parents have different comfort levels.

So how do you know when it’s time to let your children stay home alone? Here are some signs to look for:

  • They’re mature and becoming more independent in everyday activities.
  • They’re respectful of the rules
  • They’ve proven themselves to be responsible
  • They have good decision making skills
  • They can take care of themselves (i.e. making a snack, brushing their teeth, etc)
  • You feel confident they’d be safe if you left them alone

If you see the qualities above in your child, the best place to start in making this decision is open dialogue. Begin to gauge how you, your partner and your child feel about them staying home alone. The idea of being alone in the house is exciting for some kids while it may be anxiety-inducing for others. The feelings that arise in your child are a great indicator of their readiness. Finding out they’re ready is a great first step in opening the conversation, while knowing they aren’t yet ready allows you to overcome fears with them together. In this process, it’s also important you and your partner are on the same page. 

Once this dialogue has begun, you can begin to ease in by identifying gradual next steps. For example, you can start by doing “trial runs”. This may look like leaving your child alone while you walk the dog or go to the grocery store. These shorter stints will allow the whole family to gauge your comfort level – just like swimming, it’s often easier to ease into the water instead of diving straight into the deep end. Take this process at your own pace, checking in on how comfortable both you and your child feel. Over time, you can gradually increase the duration of time as you build trust and comfort.

Other things to consider before letting your child stay home alone include setting clear guidelines:

How much screen time do they have when you’re gone?
What snacks are off limits?
Can they invite a friend over?

It’s important to set these boundaries together – a point of readiness is trusting that your child will respect the guidelines even without supervision.

And finally, to ensure their safety – and your peace of mind – give them a way to contact you, as well as emergency information and the contact information of both yourself and neighbors. 

As mentioned above, there is no single route to deciding your child is ready to stay home alone, although it will happen inevitably. Trust both yourself and your family to make this decision in your own time, using it as an opportunity to encourage growth and development within your child. For more support, connect with a member of Decade2Connect today!

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