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Home Alone: A New Experience

by Michele | April 1st, 2024 | Safety, Tweens

Somewhere during the middle school years your child may want to stay home alone. Whether it be while you run a quick trip to the grocery store or for a short period of time between the end of the school day and an adult coming home from work, your tween may ask to stay at home unsupervised. Like everything else in parenting, there are a variety of things to consider.

First, the maturity of your tween needs to be considered. Can he stay home unattended and follow the rules that you set? In the case of my older child, I let him go home on his own when he was in sixth grade. Of course, at that time I taught at the local elementary school and would be home less than an hour after he was there. He also knew what was expected- he needed to text that he was home and wasn’t supposed to go anywhere.

Second, you should think about your child’s sense of security. Perhaps all of her friends are starting to stay home for short periods of time, but she hasn’t asked to do so. There isn’t a huge need to rush this; soon enough she’ll want to be alone all the time. However, if you think your child may be less comfortable but you want to start establishing some independence, try taking a short (10-15 minute) walk around the neighborhood while she stays home. With a little practice, she may begin to feel safe being alone.

Third, does your child know basic guidelines for being alone? For example, does your child know who to contact in the case of an emergency and the order in which people should be contacted? If your child has a cellphone, are the numbers for all of those people in his phone? If he doesn’t have a cellphone, is there an easy to find list of contacts? In addition, there are numerous other items to consider:

  • Can she answer the door when she’s home alone?
  • Is she allowed to use the stove or oven while you’re away?
  • Does the dog need to be let outside or taken on a walk?

Of course, there are many other decisions, which will vary based on your home. Here are a few more suggestions (from a few years of experience). Don’t worry too much about things like whether or not your child eats 2 cookies or 5 cookies. The first time alone your child might be excited at the freedom of grabbing her own snack. A few extra cookies won’t hurt. Also, you can set guidelines that tv isn’t supposed to be watched, but again this is his first time at independence. He may want to watch his favorite sitcom on his own. If it’s a short period of time, a little tv probably won’t hurt. Finally, the first time left alone should be truly alone. Don’t ask your tween to be independent and then ask her to watch a sibling. She needs to try this on her own first.

Give it a try. Review how it went, and from there you can decide if this is a privilege and responsibility your tween can handle.

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