Success lies in talking it through, creating a plan, and adapting to change.
You and your spouse work. Your kids are older now and no longer qualify for after-school care options available in the community. What now? It may be time to let your child stay home alone…with some ground rules.
Put It on the List
Gather as a family and make a list of expectations to post on the fridge or another space where it can be easily seen. Here are some ideas:
• Call Mom or Dad when you arrive home. Call. Speak to either Mom or Dad. No texting.
• Should they get straight to homework, or can your child enjoy some downtime first? If so, what and for how long?
• What about an after-school snack? What are some mutually agreed-upon selections?
• Do any chores need to be completed before Mom and Dad get home?
• Can friends come over? If so, how many? For how long?
• Is your child able to leave? If so, for what reasons? Who should they notify?
• How often should your child call to check in with Mom or Dad?
Safety Is a Must
It’s natural for a parent to be protective. Leaving your child home alone requires a new level of trust–trust that you’ve taught your child well and trust that they are ready for the responsibility.
First, and most importantly, your child should never let anyone know they are home alone. If they arrive home and see the door open, a window smashed, or something doesn’t seem right, have a safe place nearby for them to go and call 9-1-1.
“Stranger danger.” It’s likely that you used this phrase to teach your children about unknown people approaching them on the street. It applies to the front door, too, especially when your child is home alone. Have a plan of escape mapped out, so your child can exit the home and safely get to a trusted neighbor’s home.
Toilets overflow. Accidents happen. Ensure your child knows how to react and who to notify. Avoid confusion. Post a list of emergency contact numbers near the expectations list, so it’s easy for your child to find when needed.
Live and Learn
Breathe. This is a learning experience for you both – you learning that you can trust your child with more responsibility, your child learning that they can do this. There will be bumps in the road. Work through them together. Revise your expectations list if needed. Remember, together, you got this.