From the moment you lay eyes on your child, you want to keep them safe. But as they get older, it’s natural to experience anxiety as you think about leaving them home alone for the first time. Children are extremely vulnerable to predators, and the best way to protect them is to teach them how to handle potentially risky when you are not around. By following these simple guidelines, you can run errands confident that your child will stay safe, even though you’re not around.
Is your child ready to stay at home alone?
Some states have laws in place that prohibit parents from leaving their children at home unattended. For example, in Maryland the age is 8, but in Illinois, that age is 14.
If age is not restricted in your state, the next step to think about is whether your child is mature enough. Every child displays a different level of maturity, and this should be considered when deciding whether to leave them at home alone. Does your child get anxious at the thought of being left home alone? If yes, that’s a sure sign they are not quite ready yet.
Does your child know what to do in an emergency?
Write down a list of emergency numbers and advise your child to immediately call 911 if they feel that they are in any danger. You can also teach them to alert police at the touch of a button with an ADT security system or similar. Finally, make an emergency action plan with your child. By preparing them, they will be less likely to panic, and therefore stay safer.
Does your child easily trust strangers?
When you leave you child at home, there is a chance someone like the mailman or a sales representative may knock on your door. Teach your child that regardless of whether they recognize the person, they should never open the door for them. If your child answers the phone, teach them that instead of saying that you are not home, say that you are busy, but will call them back later. This alerts the person who is calling that an adult is in the home and your child will stay protected.
Sharing on social media
With geotagging more common on social media, children can now share their location with others. If your child is active on social media, explain to them that they shouldn’t share their location. That location is not only shared with friends and family—strangers can see it, too. If a stranger happens to see it, they may try to find them, with dangerous intentions in mind.
After reading this article, you may still feel hesitant about leaving your child at home alone—you may possibly feel more so. If this is the case, practice leaving the house for thirty minutes at a time, and slowly increase that period over a few weeks. You will be able to see how your child is progressing and eventually become comfortable yourself. As an added benefit, this will also help your child develop self-reliance.