Helpful Tips for Kids Home Alone

When your kids are old enough to stay home alone, provide them with helpful guidelines.

By Family Time


These is no certain age when kids are old enough to be alone in the house, although most states have laws governing minimum ages (so that irresponsible parents don't leave a nine-year-old to his own devices). The decision is something you and your children will have to grapple with as they grow up. When it's  made, make sure your children feel confident that they can handle anything that comes up.

Here are some guidelines to help both you and your kids feel secure.

  • Post all relevant telephone numbers next to several phones. If the kids have cell phones, make sure your work numbers, cell phone numbers, and pagers are encoded on their phones. Enlist a reliable neighbor or friend to be on call and list his or her number. Include the numbers for the pediatrician and poison control. Write your home address on the list as well as your telephone number.
  • Go over when it would be appropriate to call 911 and what the children can expect if they do.
  • Make sure all fire alarms work. Point them out to the kids. In the event of fire, plan at least two escape routes from every room and every floor. Buy a fire ladder, if it makes sense. Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (not near the stove) and make sure everyone knows how to use it.
  • Walk though the kitchen and discuss the danger of the stovetop and oven. Determine if the child can use these. Perhaps you should limit snacks to uncooked ones or those that are heated in the microwave.
  • Assemble a first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, antibacterial ointment, an icepack, and a few Tylenol and Benedryl. Instruct your kids not to administer the medicine without calling you first.
  • Put all other medication, poisonous household cleansers, and alcohol in a locked closet or out of sight. Lock up firearms and ammunition in two separate locations.
  • Check that all your windows and doors have working locks. Point these out to the kids and make sure they know how to secure them.
  • Buy a telephone with caller ID or an answering machine. Equip your kids with cell phones.
  • Leave an extra key with a neighbor in the event someone gets locked out. Don’t hide keys under mats or flowerpots.
  • Send the kids to school with keys that are securely fastened to the inside of their backpacks or someplace similar, and out of sight. Do not let them wear the key around their neck or wrist; this advertises that they will be home alone.
  • Together with the kids, set up house rules and post them in the kitchen or family room. These might include a chore (fold laundry; unload the dishwasher), a homework schedule, a list of acceptable video games and television programs, and reminders to check that all doors are locked.Sometimes these familiar routines are reassuring to a restless youngster.

And finally, make sure the kids:

  • Call you or a designated adult as soon as they get home
  • Never answer the doorbell
  • Never allow anyone to enter the house they do not know very well or who is not scheduled to visit
  • Never have friends over
  • Screen calls
  • Do not let a caller know they are home alone
  • Do not cook unless you have approved it
  • Never enter the house if the door is unlocked when they get home
The first few times you leave your child or children alone will be stressful, but once the children deal with the situation in a responsible way, the anxiety will lessen for everyone. Don't let the diligence fall by the wayside!