When is it good to leave your child home alone
Children grow up quickly. One day, small children hold your hand as you cross the street, and the next day they are smart and responsible, looking for more independence.
Leaving your child home alone is a major step in children’s independence and should be recognized as a milestone. After all, as parents, our mission is to take our dependent children and turn them into independent adults.
But how do we know when is the right time to leave our children at home on their own?
What is the opinion of the law?
Each state has its own laws regarding when it is legal to leave children alone. In Queensland, the criminal law states that it is unlawful to leave a child under the age of 12 “for an unreasonable time” without proper supervision and care. While Queensland is the only state that sets an age requirement, every other state also requires that parents provide their children with appropriate safety and supervision at all times.
So what does all this mean? How much is “unreasonable” time and what is “adequate safety and supervision” and how can we make sure that we give this to our children?
What guidelines should we follow?
The law tells us that unreasonable time will depend on the context. This means that we must take into account such things as the age of the child, the length of time spent on his own, the reason for his being alone, and the ability of the child himself.
We have guidelines rather than strict and fast rules because children develop emotionally at different rates, which makes it a very subjective decision. Some children may be ready by the age of ten, while others are not until the age of fourteen.
When is my child ready to be home alone?
As parents, we need to look beyond what the law says to try to determine when our children are really ready to leave home alone. Here are some things to consider.
Do they ask to stay on their own?
Once children begin to ask if they can stay home on their own, this is a sign that they may be ready. Of course, whether we agree depends on a lot of other factors, but if they do not ask, it is possible that they are not ready.
Do they know how to keep them safe?
The next thing to think about is whether your child knows how to stay safe. Do they know how to call 000 in an emergency? Do they know when they can and cannot open someone’s door? Do they know what to do if they slip and fall to the ground?
Your child needs to be old enough to make safe decisions even if something unexpected happens.
Are they responsible?
Before leaving your child home alone, you will need to know that he is responsible and trustworthy enough to handle it. Will they obey the rules of the house when you are away? Will they be able to handle the basic tasks required – such as getting food, or doing their homework?
One way to assess this is to know how responsible they are when you are around. If they are not responsible for you, they will likely not be responsible without you.
Are they physically and emotionally ready?
You will need to think about whether or not your child can manage physically on his own. Can they reach the lock to allow them to enter the house? Can they use a knife to make snacks?
You will also need to think about whether they are emotionally ready. Would they happily do their homework or watch TV during your departure, or would they spend all the time worrying and anxious, watching the watch until you come back? As parents, we need to be comfortable because our children can handle the situation calmly and without much anxiety.
When is the right time?
When the time is right, you’ll want to help them make this jump for independence easily and confidently. Gradually start by leaving them alone for only a few minutes while you open the next door. Then you can increase it to stay alone while walking the dog around the block. Make it progressive to achieve the best success.
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