As parents, we’re legally responsible for our children’s welfare until they reach adulthood. Under some circumstances, a parent can be charged with neglect for leaving children unattended or left with under-aged children, including siblings. Check your state law!
Unfortunately, there’s no magical age when our kids develop the maturity and good sense needed to stay alone. However, there are some signs that can help you decide if your child is ready or not.
- …indicates a willingness to stay home alone.
- …shows signs he or she can be responsible.
- …is aware of the needs of others.
- …is able to get ready for school on time.
- …can solve problems on his or her own.
- …completes homework and household chores with minimal supervision.
- …remembers to tell you where they are going and tells you when they arrive home.
When developing rules for what youth can and cannot do while home alone, it is important to involve them in the process. Your child will respond positively to a long list of activities they can do. They may feel stifled with a long list of activities they cannot do. Try to keep the list of activities they cannot do to only the most important rules. For example: using the internet, leaving the house, answering the door or telephone, and using the stove to make a snack. Parent-Child Communication is Essential! If you and your child decide they are ready for self-care, the next step is giving youth some guidelines. Involve youth in decisions that affect them. If youth understand the reason for the rules and participate in developing the rules, they are more likely to follow them!
Here’s an example list of activities youth can and cannot do when home alone:
What I Can Do
- Watch 30 minutes of TV
- Do my homework
- Read a book
- Complete an art project
- Make a snack not using the stove
- Talk to Katie or Marci on the phone for 30 minutes
What I Cannot Do
- Use the Internet
- Leave the house
- Play outside
- Have friends over
If you don’t live in Lancaster County, Nebraska, please make sure to check out your local extension office too. Your extension office has resources for you, your family and community. To find your local office, visit here.
Have a great day!!
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