With the school year about to start, chances are your child will finish school before you get home for the day. This can leave a gap where no one is around to watch your children. Do you have to make them go somewhere or can you leave them at home by themselves? A lot of that is based on the emotional maturity of your child, and a bit is based on laws. Today, we're helping you figure it out.
Are they over 14 years old?
In the state of Illinois, a child has to be above 14 years old before being left at home alone by law. Anything under this age and you will be legally obligated to make sure that they are supervised at home until you get there. Unfortunately, it does not matter what the emotional state of your child is under this age.
How long will they be at home alone for?
If your child is 14, chances are they can be left alone for a few hours until you get there. However, if you don't get home until late at night, you should find someone to watch them until you get home. Children at this age can not always handle an emergency. In addition, they are not adults and shouldn't be cooking, cleaning, and going to bed all by themselves.
Are they okay with it?
While it might seem strange, you should ask to make sure that your child is okay with being at home alone. If they are, then you can look at if they are ready. However, if they are not, you should find out why and work to grow your child's independence before throwing them in the deep end.
Do they know what to do in case of an emergency?
Does your child know what to do if there is a fire, power outage, or if you're gone longer than you should be? Making sure they know how to handle even the most unexpected emergencies can be the difference between life and death in the worst situations. Make sure they know all the important numbers as well as emergency services and their address.
Do they know not to answer the door?
When you are not at home, no one should be coming to the house to see the child. If they do, your child should know not to answer the door. In addition, they should not answer the phone unless the caller-ID shows that it's you or another approved person calling the phone.
Do they listen to you at home and at school?
Perhaps one of the most important factors is their ability to listen when you are at home. Staying at home alone can only be done if the child is responsible and capable of following directions. Think about how they act as school as well. If they can't listen to a teacher and behave when you aren't around, that's not a good sign for staying at home alone.
What do they do if they are hungry?
Does your child know how to take care of their own basic needs? If they don't, then they won't be able to stay at home alone. Making sure that they know what they can eat and how to get food and water when you are away is the first step in making sure that they can stay at home alone.
When you first think about leaving your child at home alone, you should work to run through a few scenarios with them. Get them to answer each question with what they would actually do, for example, if someone came to the door that they didn't know. Then, if they answer the questions correctly, you should leave them alone for short periods of time, working your way up to longer periods.
A great way is to start by spending time with the next-door neighbor for thirty minutes then checking back in. Once you can do this often, you can work the time up and start going on trips with the car. Eventually, you'll know how long you can leave your child alone for and what to expect when you get back.