Does your child know what to do when home alone?
Reposted with permission from Missing Children's Network, Quebec
There are no laws that define at what age a child is old enough to be left alone, however, this decision should only be made on an individual basis and should be based on the child’s maturity and whether he is comfortable being on his own.
As a responsible parent, you must ask yourself if you have provided your child with the skills and information he will need that will prepare him to safely cope with any situation that may arise. If he is at home alone, establish concrete guidelines for your child to follow. It is important to prepare him so he feels confident in as many situations as possible.
Is your child ready and mature enough to handle being left alone? To find out, take this quiz developed by Lynette and Thomas Long, authors of “The Handbook for Latchkey Children and their Parents”.
- Do you consider your child old enough to assume self-care responsibilities?
- Has your child indicated that he is willing to try self-care?
- Is your child able to problem-solve?
- Is your child able to effectively communicate with adults?
- Does your child know who to call and what to say in case of an emergency?
- Is your child able to complete daily tasks?
- Is your child generally unafraid to be alone?
- Is your child unafraid to enter your home alone?
- Is your child able to unlock and lock the doors and windows to your home unassisted?
- Is there a trustworthy adult living or working nearby that your child knows and can rely on in case of an emergency?
- Do you consider your neighbourhood safe?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, your child may not be ready for self-care. We recommend that you delay your plans for leaving your child alone at home until all the questions elicit a positive response.
If your child is ready to stay home alone, the Missing Children’s Network recommends that parents reinforce and adopt the following safety measures with them:
- Instruct your child to never say that he is home alone.
- Teach your child not to open the door or talk to anyone who comes to the door unless the person has been pre-approved by you.
- Ensure that your child knows who to call and what to say in an emergency. Be sure to post all emergency phone numbers near your telephone, including your home phone number and address. It is very easy for anyone, especially a child, to panic in an emergency.
- Make sure your child knows how to lock and unlock all of the doors and windows. He should also know how to arm and disarm the alarm system if you have one.
- Establish an information/message centre in the house (on the fridge or bulletin board) where you and your kids can leave notes detailing where everyone is and when they will return. Have a firm rule that no one can leave the house without filling it in and that includes you!
- Call and check on your child periodically and always let him know if you are running late.
For more information about our personal safety workshops offered year-round and at no charge, please contact our offices at 514.843.4333 or visit our website at www.enfant-retourquebec.ca.