Establishing rules and safety tips for children at home alone

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.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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