“Mom, all the other kids are doing it!”
As parents we hear that a lot, but when it comes to deciding whether your child is ready to stay home alone after school or not, there are a lot of factors that determine if your child is mature enough. It’s part of growing up and being more responsible for yourself, staying home alone after school, but how do you know if your kids are ready? What do you do when you decide they are ready?
If the child is going to go home after school, it’s a good idea to have them call to check in when they get home. For an older child, set ground rules about whether other kids can come over when the parents are absent, whether cooking is an option, whether they can leave the home. Post an emergency phone list where the children can see it. Include 9-1-1, the parents work and cell numbers, numbers for neighbors, and the numbers for anyone else who is close and trusted. Practice an emergency plan with the child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, ammunition, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, and other objects that can cause injury, like potential poisons. Limit the time the child spends in front of the television or computer. Activate parental controls. Use programs that limit the sites children can visit, restrict chat sites and allow parents to monitor online activity.
That’s just the opening volley of letting kids stay home alone, keep those communication lines open and feel free to tighten or loosen the restrictions, as your child matures or pushes the boundaries. Of note, American Red Cross offers a wonderful babysitting course, with both a classroom and on-line option, which can really develop care giving skills. Or look into having your child volunteer, an excellent opportunity to develop leadership and compassion, interact with others and learn more about the world in which they live.
Check out www.redcross.org for more information on classes and volunteering!