Whether it’s an unexpected call for a major business deal, a child care arrangement that suddenly failed, a school related break that forces kids to stay home or a sick child who has to stay away from school, situations are likely to arise where you feel you have little choice but to leave your child home alone even when you hate to think of it.
Following my write up last week and a TV talk show on absentee parenting, I received a message from a concerned mum asking: At what age is it OK to leave kids home alone?
Most mums today share this same concern considering the nightmare some have suffered with helpers or nannies who abducted kids and demanded for huge amounts as ransom from the parents, in some cases the kids were killed for ritual purposes and others were maltreated for the ‘sins’ of their parents including babies and toddlers.
Most mums today who have to go to work or someplace important have resulted to keeping the kids home alone until they return and that does have its disadvantages.
A mum of three, a school bus driver, is currently facing charges in the USA for leaving her kids home alone to go to work, the youngest being about 5 months old. The mother could face up to 27 months in jail if she is convicted on three counts of child neglect.
In USA different states have different permitted by law, Illinois is 14 for example, whereas Maryland is 8. Others offer a “suggested age,” and some states don’t touch the matter at all. In Nigeria however, nobody cares if children are left alone at home.
Every child is different, but below 10 years most kids don’t have the maturity and skills to respond to an emergency if they’re alone. Here are a few things to consider:
Think about the area where you live. Are there neighbors nearby you know and trust to help your child in case of an emergency? Or are they mostly strangers? Do you live on a busy street with lots of traffic? Or is it a quiet area? Is there a lot of crime in or near your neighborhood?
Does your child show signs of responsibility with things like homework, household chores, and following directions? Does your child understand and follow rules? Can your child understand and follow safety measures? Does your child follow your instructions about staying away from strangers?
Even if you’re confident about your child’s maturity, it’s wise to make some home-alone trials, before you venture into leaving them home alone. Let your child stay home alone for 30 minutes to an hour while you remain nearby and easily just in case. When you return, discuss how it went and talk about things that you might want to change or new skills that your child might need to learn including safety precautions and ability complete certain tasks and, such as: knowing when and how to call you or an emergency number and what address information to give, locking and unlocking doors, turning lights off and on, operating the microwave.
Ask your child what would he do if, for example, he or she smelled smoke, there’s power outage, a stranger knocked at the door, or someone called for you while you’re gone.
No matter how well your child follows rules, be sure to take away anything that could be a health or safety risk and put them in a place where kids can’t get to them or remove them from your home -alcohol, tobacco, prescription medications, car keys, lighter and matches, candles, guns, etc.
You might have an older teen, a friend of the family or neighbour come over to stay or check with your child from time to time. And don’t forget that pets can be great company for kids who are home alone.
Now, what’s your thought?
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