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Too Young to be Home Alone?

by Lori Sciame | February 27th, 2014 | Safety, Tweens

boy eating aloneAsk a tween if she can handle being left home alone for an extended amount of time, and most likely she will reply in the affirmative.  Children this age want to be able to handle certain grownup responsibilities, but are they really able to do so?  Read this informative post to gain an understanding of what can befall a tween who has been allowed to remain at home for an extended period of time.

Certainly, a child who must fend for him or herself for many hours will become hungry.  Unless otherwise instructed, these children may decide to cook using the stove.  “Cooking is easy,” they think, as they’ve seen parents complete the task hundreds of times.

But, as any adult knows, using the burners or the oven has potential for unintended injuries.  A child may burn his or her skin while trying to bake a pizza, or worse, may start a fire if trying to cook a hamburger or bacon.  Because of this, much thought must go into what a child may or may not eat if left home for more than a few hours.

In addition to cooking hazards, a tween may decide that being alone offers the perfect chance to take a long, hot shower or lazy bubble bath.  What could possibly be wrong with getting clean, they reason?  Again, a parent realizes that accidents in the bathroom happen often.  Slips, falls, and even drownings can occur if a tween decides to shower or bathe while alone.  Like cooking, using water in the bathroom can be disastrous.

Home intrusions can also happen while a tween is left to his own devices.  This is because a trusting tween may be more likely to open the front door for a stranger, plus a child may not know what to do if a suspicious man (or woman) lurks in the back yard.  In these cases, tweens can be physically injured in a robbery attempt — or worse.

Finally, weather can present unusual problems for tweens left alone for long periods.  In my area of the country, power outages caused by thunderstorms occur regularly in the summer, and furnaces can (and do) quit working during arctic cold snaps.

For instance, a friend at work needed to take her daughter back to college during one of the coldest weekends we’ve had in the last 30 years.  She was afraid to take the whole family in the car for the seven-hour round trip, yet she didn’t think it proper to leave her tween sons home alone while she and her husband ventured out.  After some thought, she decided to stay home with the younger children, while her husband braved the elements to return the daughter to school. This proved to be a smart choice, as her husband ended up being stuck overnight due to a blizzard.

As the examples above show, most tweens do not have the knowledge base to remain at home for long periods of time without adult supervision. For this reason, aim for small one- to two-hour increments instead.

  1. Louise says:

    Thank you for this article. I wish my parents had read something like this back in the 80’s. It may have prompted them to spend money on a babysitter, instead of leaving me alone home in the evening when I was 11 years old. Someone did try to break into the basement. I heard them trying to force open the lower patio doors. I was terrified, and too shy (?) to call the police (who would have been too late anyway). I pretended we had a family dog and I yelled at the imaginary dog to stop making whatever noise it was. I’m sure whoever was trying to break in did not believe that there was a dog, but thank God decided they didn’t want to deal with a child. After my parents got home they saw that the garage had been broken into and the tractor as well as many tools were stolen. I shudder to think about what would have happened if they were the kind of men who would have taken advantage of a girl alone.

  2. Lori s. says:

    That must have been so scary, Louise. I, too, was left home a lot, and agree that it’s not the best decision parents can make! Thank you for your comment.

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