Nearly every parent looks forward to the time when they can go out to dinner and leave the children home alone. Not only does it save money Ã¢â‚¬â€œ there are not more cancelled plans because the babysitter got a better offer.
With all of the anticipation of parental freedom comes the nagging feeling that your baby is too young to dial 911 in an emergency or too inexperienced to microwave popcorn without burning the house down.
It can be difficult to know when your child is mature enough to handle, not only the responsibility but the loneliness of spending the evening without the parental units. This can be even more of a problem if you have more than one child at home. At what point is your child old enough to be responsible for himself and a sibling or two?
Although different states have different age requirements for babysitting, most parents are the best judge of when their child is ready for his first solo evening. Age is actually not a very good indicator of when your child no longer needs a babysitter.
A child that is going to be without adult supervision for a few hours will need to be mature enough to handle numerous possible situations when they come up.
- Does he know what constitutes a medical emergency?
- Will he know what to do if someone comes to the door?
- Can he answer the phone without letting the caller know he is home alone?
- Can he be trusted not to break the house rules?
- Can he prepare a snack?
- Can he use the microwave?
- Does he know how to get in touch with you or another emergency contact if he needs to?
- Does he know the name of the family doctor?
- Is he afraid to stay home alone?
Parents are the best thermometers when it comes to reading their childÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s maturity level and knowing what they are ready for. What is your gut feeling about leaving you child home alone?
Some children may be ready to be left alone for a time during the daylight hours but not at night. I can remember when I was about twelve, my parents went out for the evening leaving me alone in the house. The house was in the country and surrounded by cedar trees and I was going to have to feed the horses their last hay of the day at about 10:00.
Worst of all, I had been watching a horror movie and there was a full moon. I was terrified but I am happy to report I finished the chore and got back into the house without being eaten by a zombie.
Is your child nervous about nighttime? Do they have an overactive imagination? It may be better to wait to leave him home at night until he is older.
Two other things that should be considered before you head out to trip the lights fantastic on a Friday night are probably the most important of all.
First of all, your state may have regulations about the age a child can be left unattended. While most do not have a specific age, they do leave it up to the parent to make a wise choice Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and if something happens, child welfare could potentially step in.
The most important baseline for whether your child can stay home alone is ultimately your gut feeling about it. If you feel confident that Junior is ready to face the world, or at least the echoes of an empty house, on his own then go for it. However, if the idea of leaving your precious alone makes you reach for a Xanax, then heed your parental instincts, no matter how old he is.
photo credit: Brad Flickinger