Are you a parent with a 10-12 year old? Do you often find yourself in a quandary about whether or not to leave that child home alone for a few minutes while you run to pick up a gallon of milk or do another errand? Are you wondering when it’s time to leave your tween child home alone? Well, you’re not alone. I’ve been there 4 times over with my oldest 5 kids and there’s 3 more behind them! Over the years, parenting has provided me with a few markers that help me decide when it’s time.
I also found an informative article by Teri Cettina regarding how to prepare your child to be home alone in the Parenting School Years September 2010 issue, and I’ve used a few of these suggestions in the past myself. Hopefully after reading these suggestions you’ll find yourself more comfortable with leaving your tween home alone for short periods.
Set the rules
It’s important to specifically tell your child the do’s and don’ts of being on their own at home. According to Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D., you shouldn’t allow your kids to answer the door for any reason, even if it’s only friends and neighbors. The same holds true for answering the phone. Let all calls go to voicemail unless the tween can see that the call is from you. Be sure to tell your tween to stay off of the stove too. I’m very familiar with stove accidents at my house. Luckily they happened while I was here, but you wouldn’t want to be gone while your tween was using the stove.
In an emergency your tween may not know phone numbers that they already know by heart. Panic will do that to the best of us. To avoid any problems, make sure to post the emergency numbers by the phone along with a neighbors number that you will have talked to about your tween possibly calling in a pinch.
Play the “what if” game
Just to make sure your tween would act appropriately, ask he/she to humor you and play the “what if” game with you. Toss out scenarios about what they’d do if someone delivering an item came knocking, or possibly just a friend wanted to come over and play. How would they handle these situations? Are you the parent comfortable with the answers they’ve given you?
Don’t take too long
Keep your trip short and sweet. No longer than an hour for the first few times you’re away. Try not to leave older sibs in charge either. I’m really familiar with this scenario too. These older kids tend to push their weight around at the littler ones and this can make for an explosive situation.
At first, leaving your tween home alone can be uncomfortable, but if you follow these suggestions and stick to some absolutes, you’ll find over time you’ll be able to make these trips longer and actually feel comfortable about it!