5 Tips for Preparing Kids to Stay Home Alone

Two questions parents struggle with as their kids get older are: "When are kids old enough to stay home alone?" and "How do you prepare kids to stay home alone?" Like most moms, I wanted to find the answers to these questions for my own family. I searched for information online, I asked friends, and I discussed the situation with my boys and my husband. Today, I am sharing my best tips for preparing kids to stay home alone.

1) Start early - It's never too early to start teaching kids how to be safe. Set a good example for your kids and try to find "teaching moments" where you can. In our house, we've always tried to find time to chat while having an after school snack. Bedtime is great too.

2) Wait until kids are ready - In addition to checking the legal requirements for staying alone in your area, it's important to consider the maturity of your child. All kids mature at different rates, and parents are the best judges of how responsible and "ready" children are. Don't rush it.

3) Start off slow - Parents and kids will both be more comfortable if kids are gradually introduced to the concept of being left home alone. Start by talking about staying home alone, progress to leaving the child home for short periods of time, and build up to leaving the child at home for longer periods of time. My oldest son is 13, and although I have been leaving him alone for a few years, I have only recently started leaving him in charge of his brothers for long periods of time.

4) Make sure the rules are clear - Make sure the kids know the rules before you leave them home alone. For example: Do the doors need to stay locked? Are friends allowed to be in the house when adults aren't home? Is the child permitted to use the stove? In our house, the kids are not allowed to use the stove or oven when they are home alone. They make a lot of sandwiches, cereal, and microwavable oatmeal.

5) Sign your kids up for an online safety course - Sometimes it is difficult to find the time to talk to your kids and give them all the information they need. Recently, I had my boys do the SOS 4 Kids online safety course*. The program is inexpensive, easy to use, and comprehensive. There are modules (that the kids can do at a convenient time... from the comfort of your home) on: street smarts, people safety, at home safety, online safety, fire safety, first aid, and accident prevention. The course is simple enough for the kids to do on their own, but doing it with your kids provides a wonderful opportunity to open a dialogue with your kids and to reinforce some of the information included in the course.

The program is interactive... using videos, digital media and checkpoints to engage kids. They even get a printable certificate of achievement when they have completed the course. The program is designed for kids aged 9-13... but it would also be a useful platform for kids with ADD, learning disabilities, or older youth with developmental disabilities. You can read more about the home alone safety course here.

Have you started leaving your kids home alone? What tips do you have to share? Leave your ideas in the comments below, and if you have any questions, please let me know.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with SOS 4 Kids and have received compensation for this post; however, as always, all opinions in this post are my own.


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