Leaving a child ‘home alone’ for the first time can be a nerve-racking experience for parents. However, with some careful planning and a set of safety rules in place, you will feel much more prepared and confident about this new milestone.
Here are some top tips from an independent school in Buckinghamshire on leaving your child home alone for the first time…
Is your child ready?
You may be surprised to learn that there is no legal age requirement to leave your child unattended at home. However, child protection experts say that ‘it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.’ Therefore, it is crucially important to evaluate your child’s readiness. You know your child better than anyone, so take into consideration their maturity level and problem-solving skills, as well as their feelings about being on their own. You could try a short practice run, while you are nearby, to see how it goes.
Is it safe?
Make sure that your child is capable of safely preparing food and drink on their own. Ensure that they can confidently operate the kettle, cooker or microwave without adult supervision. If you are worried, then you could prepare their meals or snacks in advance. It’s also a good idea to talk about what they’re going to do while you’re out. For example, if your child has access to the internet or social media channels, it is important to explain cyber safety and ensure that they do not mention to anyone online that they are home alone.
Make an emergency plan
Make sure your child knows what time you’ll be back and who to call in an emergency. Discuss potential emergencies, such as a power cut, a fire or a stranger at the door and explain what to do in each situation. Leave all your contact numbers and also give them family or neighbours phone numbers in case they can’t reach you and need help straight away.
It is a good idea to call your child every so often to see how they are doing, or you could ask a friend or neighbour to pop round and check on them for you.
*This is a collaborative post*