Home alone... not the movie!

Many kids have to stay home alone and wait for their parents to come back from work. Here is some safety advice that will certainly be very useful.

According to the Canadian Security Council, parents who allow their children to stay home alone or with their siblings have to supervize them from a distance.

Whether they are six or sixteen years old, school-aged kids must be looked after by a responsible adult. If you can’t be there when your children come home from school, give them the impression that you are still watching over them.

The Canadian Safety Council advises parents to:
  • Establish firm rules that clearly tell the kids what they can and cannot do.
  • Prepare children for any situation.
  • Explain clearly what they are to do while they are alone.
  • Call or text them on a regular basis.
  • Make sure the house is safe.
  • Limit the amount of time the children are home alone.

Depending on the province you live in, the age a child can legally stay home alone varies from 10 to 12 years old. However, a document published by Health Canada in 1999 revealed that parents ask for “stay home alone” classes for their children in third grade.

The CSC highly advises against leaving children under the age of 10 home alone. Responsible 10-year-olds can stay home alone for an hour or two as long as there is an adult available if he needs it. Age is not the only criteria to determine if a child should stay home alone or not. Just think of the non-supervized preteens or teenagers who get into much more trouble than younger kids.

To judge if your child is capable of staying home alone, go on little outings. When you come back, ask him to share his experience. You can then make your outings last a little longer and give your child strict instructions.

After a few outings, answer these questions:
  • Does your child feel comfortable being alone?
  • Are you at ease with letting your child home alone?
  • Can your child follow instructions in a responsible manner?
  • Does he understand written or verbal instructions? Does he remember them?
  • Can your child find intelligent ways to occupy himself without getting into trouble?
  • Can your child deal with normal and unplanned situations?
  • Can you get a hold of your child easily when you’re gone?
  • In case of an emergency, can your child get a hold of you easily?

To prepare your children to the responsibilities associated with independence, the Canadian Safety Council published a booklet with important information about leaving your children home alone. The booklet’s purpose is to prevent problems, help and guide you with real life situations and offer safe and responsible activities.

Checklist for home alone children
  • Put up important phone numbers beside each phone or add them to the phone's memory.
  • Get an answering machine on your home phone.
  • Get caller ID. Tell your children they can only answer specific numbers. Anyone else who calls can leave a message on the answering machine. Have a wireless surveillance system installed that will send you a message on your phone, blackberry or e-mail to let you know when your child gets home. Add camera surveillance for extra security while you’re gone.

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