When you decide it is appropriate to allow your child to stay home alone, you will want to establish rules for your child. Examples of rules you may wish to set include:
- Internet/computer/telephone/television use
- Not answering the door
- Refraining from telling anyone he/she is home alone
- Use of appliances, such as stoves, microwaves, and grills
- Having guests or friends over when parents are not home
It is also important to make sure your child knows important safety tips, such as what to do in the case of an emergency. It is helpful to leave important information available for your child, such as:
- Telephone numbers for 911, family members, and neighbors.
- Your child’s full name, date of birth, and home address.
- Each parent’s full name, phone numbers, and employer information so parents can be reached immediately.
- Other family members’ full names, phone numbers, and employer information.
- What to say when someone calls.
- What to do if someone knocks on the door.
- The location of a flashlight and other emergency items such as band aids.
Before leaving your child home alone, practice the above rules and safety tips so you will feel at peace when you leave your child home alone and your child will feel more confident about how to handle this new role. Finally, you may wish to leave your child home alone in small increments, such as 15-30 minutes the first time, 30-45 minutes the second time, and so on. This will give everyone an opportunity to assess the situation.
Many parents wonder when their child can stay home alone. While there is not a magical answer, there are many factors to consider when making this decision with your family.
First, remember that all children mature at different rates and have varying levels of skills and abilities that should be taken into consideration when making this decision.
Second, it is important for families to consider the amount of time the child will be home alone (i.e., one half hour or an entire day).
Third, it important to know how your child feels about being home alone and how your child will handle an emergency.
Answer these questions to assess your child’s readiness to stay home alone.
- Is your child mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being on his or her own?
- Do you and your child communicate well about feelings?
- Can your child manage simple tasks like making a snack and taking a phone message?
- Has your child indicated an interest and/or a willingness to stay home alone?
- Does your child generally observe rules that exist in your home?
- Does your child spontaneously tell you about daily events?
- Is your child physically able to unlock and lock the doors at your home?
- Can your child solve small problems without assistance?
- Does your child know when and how to seek outside help?
- Do you think your child is prepared to handle an accident or an emergency?
- Will your child follow your household rules when you are not home?
If you answered “yes” to most of the questions, this may indicate your child is ready to stay alone.
Many parents find it helpful to allow their child to stay home alone in small increments to begin with, as a “testing period.” For instance, maybe a parent will go for a walk while their child is home for 20-30 minutes. This is a good opportunity to assess the event and to discuss how your child felt about staying home alone. As you and your child become more comfortable with your child staying home alone, it would be appropriate to gradually increase the amount of time your child is home alone.
Check back next week to learn about setting rules and teaching safety tips.
Did you know that media use has been linked to being overweight and obese? In the U.S., children between 8-and 18-years old spend an average of 44.5 hours a week using media and only 8.75 hours a week exercising. Children who spend too much time using media tend to be overweight. In fact, research shows that a preschooler’s risk of becoming obese increases 6% for every hour of T.V. watched per day.
Obesity is a major health concern and an epidemic for our nation, including our nation’s children of all ages. The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. increased from 15% in 1980 to 34% in 2008 among adults and increased from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2008 among children and adolescents.
Too much media use can increase body weight and reduce:
- physical activity
- doing homework
- playing with friends
- spending time with family
- metabolic rates
Parents must set rules and limit their child’s access to media and encourage healthy alternatives to media use, especially exercise.
Scientists have found that reducing the amount of time preschoolers watch television lowers their body weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:
- Absolutely no screen time for children under the age of three years
- No more than 1 hour of total screen time for children ages 3-12 years per day
All children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate or intense aerobic physical activity each day. There are many alternatives to media use that parents can recommend to their children, such as:
- Riding a bike
- Playing outside
- Going to the library
- Attending a sporting or musical event
- Playing with a friend
- Walking a dog
- Practicing a musical instrument
- Playing a board game
- Reading a book
- Going for a walk
- Participating in organized activities such as baseball, tennis, dance, and swimming, and
- Cooking family meals together
For more information about preventing obesity, visit http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/.