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When can I start to leave my kids home alone?

Question of the Week

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Updated November 17, 2004

Q. When can I start to leave my kids home alone?

A. Before you leave your children at home alone, you should make sure that they feel 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. You may want to gradually let them stay home alone for very short periods of time to make sure they are ready.

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

  • Make sure that they are comfortable staying home alone.
  • They should know their full name, address and phone number and how to reach you at work.
  • They should know how to deal with situations that may arise while they are alone. They should know to not open the door if someone knocks in any situation (you can review different situations that may occur). They should not open the door even if they say they have an important package or if they say they are a policeman. Instead of opening the door in uncertain situations, they should know to call you first.
  • Also review what to do in emergency situations, such as a fire. Make sure they knows how to call 911 and know to get out of the house in case of a fire.
  • Structure their time when they are home alone. Be clear about any chores, homework, or other things that they are supposed to do. Have a routine that they must perform when they get home, including locking the door and checking in with you if possible.
  • Childproof the home. Remove guns and lock away alcohol or medicines.
  • Be clear about any restrictions that you may have, including not having visitors, or not using the stove or other appliances.

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