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Preparation and Communication for Children Home Alone

There is no right or wrong answer to when you can start leaving your child at home for short periods of time. There are many factors that can determine whether your child is ready, including maturity, temperament, health, age and level of comfort. Although the Canadian Safety Council suggests that parents shouldn't consider leaving a child home alone before the age of ten, this shouldn't be considered the only criteria.

Before you make the decision to trust your child to man the fort for a short period of time, ask yourself these questions. They will help you in making the responsible decision.

  • Does your child feel comfortable being home alone? Ask them how they feel.
  • Do you feel 100% comfortable with the idea of leaving him/her home alone?
  • Does your child follow directions, understand instructions, both written and oral?
  • How does your child deal with unexpected situations?
  • Do you have a reliable method of communication with your child when you aren't home?
  • Can your child reach someone in the case of an emergency? A neighbour? The authorities? Are they comfortable with this responsibility?

If you've thoughtfully answered these questions and have come to the conclusion that your child can in fact be left alone for a short time, follow these steps.

  • Give your child a schedule, a routine to determine how their time is spent
  • Set firm rules, the do's and don'ts, including what to do if someone were to come to the door
  • Keep in touch throughout the time spent apart, checking in on your child, confirming everything is going smoothly
  • Before you leave, ensure your home is safe and secure - doors and windows locked, stove turned off...
  • Just because your child can care for him or herself, doesn't mean they're ready to look after a younger sibling or friend

How long is too long?

  • Remember, every child is different. But feel free to use the below as a general guideline
    • Children ages 10 -12: up to 2 hours
    • Children ages 13-14: up to 5 hours

Children ages 15-16: up to a whole day.

HOME ALONE AND BABYSITTER COURSES

Home Alone (with first aid)

This course is designed for the 9 and 10 year old group by the Canadian Safety Council, to help prepare them to deal with unforeseen emergencies and staying safe in times where they may find themselves alone for short periods of time. Participants will learn how to deal with phone calls and visitors, recognize hazards and follow home safety procedures. They will also learn first aid basics, healthy eating, fire safety and how and when to use 911.

Find a course near you and register at www.sja.ca or call 905-568-1905.

Babysitting Basics (with first aid)

Developed by a team of child care professionals, trained babysitters, St. John Ambulance instructors, and parents this course teaches new babysitters the skills necessary to care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. It emphasizes safety, dealing with emergencies and first aid basics. Course materials include; a student activity book, a certificate suitable for framing, and a wallet-size certificate.

Find a course near you and register at www.sja.ca or call 905-568-1905.