Does the prospect of leaving your child alone at home for the first time conjure up images from a lot of similar movies you might have already watched? Do you have visions of long video gaming sessions, toy tornadoes destroying your home, and junk food parties?
Trusting your children with your home and everything in it is enough to make any parent nervous, especially when they are between the ages of 9 and 12 when they no longer are babies but not teens (hence the term, “tweens”).
Your fears are valid, yet there are some genuine advantages to keeping preteens at home alone or allowing them to babysit younger siblings. For starters, you really are instilling a sense of accountability. Second, you might be able to go out with your husband for a calm, child-free supper.
A recent survey did investigate what constitutes neglect when a child is left alone at home, and it got people thinking about when a youngster does have the capability of caring for another child without an adult. There is no specific age at which your children are ready to do a babysit. According to some books and psychologists, it really relies on the age of the child and the availability of an adult backup.
When deciding whether an older child can be allowed to care for a sibling or another family member, parents should analyze the dynamics between family members. Few parents would leave a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old home alone, for example, if they do not get along. However, the same 12-year-old may have a terrific relationship with the neighbors’ children, and it would be okay for him or her to help by watching the neighbors’ children.
Most youngsters between the ages of 10 and 12 could certainly be left at home for varied durations of time. It depends on how old the child is and how long he or she has been alive. It could be older for certain kids.
Children who are terrified of being left alone, who is impetuous, or who are unaware of their surroundings should not be left alone at home.
How do you understand how young your kids are?
Are your kids young or too young? What you need to know is that there are a lot of 15- and 16-year-olds who you would not want to leave home alone for hours. On the other hand, there are many 13- and 14-year-olds with whom you would feel completely safe being left home alone for four hours. Parents must assess their children separately. Consistently demonstrating appropriate behavior earns independence, autonomy, and freedom.
Responsibility can be easily described as getting high grades, listening to parents’ directives, having a healthy social life, respecting elders, having a pleasant relationship with siblings, and doing home duties. Younger siblings do not automatically have the same rights as their older siblings who have shown responsible behavior. Each child must work hard to earn his or her keep.
According to research presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) national conference, children should be at least 12 years old before being left alone for more than 4 hours. According to a poll of 485 social workers conducted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), if a child is wounded while unsupervised, they are more likely to characterize the scenario as neglect.
According to these social workers, leaving a child aged 6 or younger at home alone for four hours is considered child neglect. More than 80% felt it was considered neglect if the child was under the age of eight, and almost half said it was neglect if a youngster under the age of ten was left home for four hours.
When it was prohibited to leave a child at their homes or when a child was wounded, social workers were more inclined to consider it a case of child neglect.
More than half of these workers believe that children under the age of 12 should not be left alone for more than four hours. Around 80% believe it should be prohibited for children under the age of ten.
Here are a few things you can do
1. Have a maturity check done
Most states do not have regulations dictating how old enough a child must be to be left alone at home. As a result, the decision is left to the parent’s discretion. Most parents recognize that a 5-year-old is far too young to be left alone in the house.
It is fine to leave a child alone for small periods of time, under an hour, throughout the day at the age of 10 or 11, if they are not afraid and you believe they are old enough to handle it.
Consider the following factors when deciding whether or not you should leave your child alone at home:
- Do you have a security system in place? Is your tween familiar with how to use it?
- Is your youngster able to comprehend and follow simple rules such as closing the door after entering and not simply opening it up for strangers?
- Has your youngster demonstrated sound judgment in the past?
- Do you live in a peaceful rural or residential area?
- Is the crime rate in the neighborhood low?
- Do you have any friends, family members, or neighbors who can immediately arrive at your home in the event of an emergency?
- Has your tween previously demonstrated responsibility? Finishing assignments on time without being asked and doing duties around the house are two examples.
- Is your adolescent at ease with the concept of being alone at home?
2. Household Regulations
Your tween may be ready to be home alone if you just answered yes or are positive to most or all these questions mentioned. Establish a few fundamental home rules that cover various situations before you leave for the first time:
- When the doorbell rings, what should you do?
- When the phone rings, what should you do?
- Limits on how much time you can spend watching TV or playing computer or video games, as well as a list of permitted shows and games
How to Prepare Your Preteen for Babysitting
Some children are mature enough to begin babysitting at the age of 12 or 13. Others should hold off till they are older teenagers. Before you allow your tween to babysit, make sure she has the same qualifications as any other babysitter you are considering.
Any potential babysitter must be able to:
- Take responsible decisions
- Must be mature
- Capable of making sound decisions
- Able to stick to the rules
- Capable of handling power without abusing it
- Capable of dealing calmly with any kind of emergency or other issues that may come
A babysitting class can teach preteens a few of these skills, as well as first aid and CPR. For finding some babysitting classes in your region, contact your local American Red Cross or YMCA chapter.
Consider having your tween assist the mother or father. This will allow you to keep an eye on the youngster while the tween slowly learns how to care for it.
Preparing Your House for Your Tween
Make your home tween-friendly so you do not have to worry about leaving your child alone or also in the care of a younger sibling while you go out.
Make a list of emergency phone numbers that include, for example:
- Your mobile device
- Neighbors and family members who reside nearby
- Poison control
- Your child’s doctor
- The police and fire agencies in the area
- On the alarm system’s panic button
- Teach them to dial 911. (It may seem obvious, but a stressed child can forget those three numbers.)
Do a trial
Before allowing your tween to stay at your home alone or to babysit, discuss or role-play a variety of scenarios, such as:
- “The doorbell is ringing, and it’s a stranger. So, what exactly do you do?”
- “The fire alarm has sounded. So, what exactly do you do?”
- “The power is turned off. So, what exactly do you do?”
- “Your little sister is having a fit. So, what exactly do you do?”
Keep your first outing to 30 minutes to an hour in length. When you arrive home, discuss with them how things must have gone at home with your tween. Discuss any issues or concerns that have arisen. If everything went well during the run-through, progressively increase the amount of time when you are gone.
Make sure that you are easily available and accessible on your phone whenever you are out. If you do need to check-in, keep your calls or texts to a bare minimum to demonstrate the trust you have in your child and to allow you to enjoy your time away.
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