Whilst many parents will be breathing a sigh of relief that the school holidays are finally over, there are some who are facing new daily routines.

Children too old for before and after school care may be learning to get to and from school on their own, spending a few hours at home by themselves or with siblings while mum or dad are at work.

Are they ready to be at home by themselves in the mornings? Can they be trusted to lock the house up properly before letting themselves out of the house as well?

It’s only natural for parents to worry about their children’s wellbeing. There is no singular law in Australia outlining at what age kids can or can’t stay at home by themselves; this decision falls squarely on the parent.

ADT Security has compiled some essential tips to both help children feel more confident about looking after themselves and provide greater peace of mind for parents.

1: Test the waters

If kids haven’t been left at home alone before, parents should start by leaving them for just 20 minutes whilst they visit the supermarket, to see how they feel. If there are no concerns, they can then gradually extend their absence for longer. Soon they’ll be comfortable by themselves until mum or dad return home. At this point, conduct a trial together where they demonstrate how to lock up the home before they leave, to pick up anything they may forget (writing down a handy checklist for them can also make them feel more at ease).

2: Create a safe environment
Make sure that kids know how to open and close all the locks and windows in the home and how to use the keys. While they may be old enough to know about general hazards in the home, it’s still a good idea to explain the dangers of everyday activities that can lead to a household accident, such as leaving cooking unattended or drying clothes too close to a heater.

3: Set ground rules
Once they know how everything works and the home has been made as safe as possible, set some ground rules around what they can and can’t touch, use or do.

For example, instructing them not to answer the phone or the door when there are no adults home. It may also be a good idea to minimise the use of appliances or sharp cooking utensils, especially if kids are still in their early teens.

4: Establish a plan or routine
Discuss with children what they will be doing when mum or dad are not there. Map out tasks or a routine to follow such as homework, followed by half an hour of technology and then set the table for dinner. This will make it less likely that they’ll get bored and potentially get up to mischief. It will also give parents peace of mind knowing what they’re doing at different times of the morning or afternoon.

5: Prepare them for an emergency
If children know how everything works and what not to touch, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about.

However, make sure that they know exactly what to do in the case of an emergency. Write down all emergency contacts and numbers, including 000, and make sure they know who to call for different circumstances. For example, asking a neighbour for assistance if they can’t find the family pet, rather than calling the police.

Also ensure there is a first aid kit at home and that children know where it is and how to use the basics properly.

Do you trust your children home alone?

Share your comments below

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  • We have emergency details written next to the phone, starting with our address and essential info for an ambulance, because you never know when you’ll get a mind blank in an emergency. We started with giving the kids the option of coming grocery shopping or staying home with 1 or 2 chores to test the water (they were older than 12). I now leave our 17 year old in charge of younger siblings but it is very hard.

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  • I did all that. Didn’t stop he from worrying and doesn’t stop accidents from happening. Thankfully didn’t happen very often for me, my kids were good listeners

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  • Great tips – these days many children are home alone because e most parents have to work.

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  • All great tips, highly believe in the setting the ground rules!

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  • It took us longer as we had an only child. I often think when you leave more than one child home alone there’s some kind of perceived safety in numbers. You feel comfortable that there is someone else there. It was a long process for us.

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  • Good topic thanks for the article

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  • I never ever leave my my 8year old alone. She has a Reactive Attachment Disorder with severe kleptomania and does unpredictable things. She is not to be trusted.
    My youngest is 5yr old and has Down syndrome. Sometimes I leave her for a moment with my 14yr old.
    I can leave my 14 and 13yr old alone.

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  • Always scary the first time. I think I would have indoor cameras to watch them


    • I know parents in WA who already have cameras in some parts of their house. In SA as far as I know the law is that you can’t leave a baby in the care of a person under a certain age

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  • I have just started leaving mine for short periods of time. They have a mobile phone just for these occasions so there is always constant contact if needed.

    Reply

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