Home Alone Survival Guide
These days there are guidelines for everything--from what age to potty train to how old your kid must be to log onto Facebook--but when it comes to giving your progeny the keys to the house and saying "bye-bye," you're on your own. Leaving kids home alone is not a decision moms take lightly. So we asked Samantha Wilson, Founder and President of Kidproof Canada/USA, to give moms tips on how to keep kids safe when you're not around:
The Time Is Right
Some parents leave their kids to their own devices when they're 7, for others, 17 still makes them nervous. The truth is, there is no "right" age. "Moms know their kids best," Wilson says. "They often know their limitations better than the kids themselves. Ultimately it is the parent's responsibility to decide if a child is ready, able and willing to be left unsupervised."
If you think your kid is old enough, but you're getting cold feet (or they are), give them a test run. Take a trip to the grocery store for 30 minutes and see how it goes. Talk about it afterwards. Ask them how they felt. Ask them if there's anything you can do to make them feel confident and prepared.
Walk through the house with your kids and check that the doors and windows lock and that they know where a non-cordless phone is (in the event of a power outage). Show them the fire extinguisher and make sure they (and you!) know how to use it. Check the fire detectors and discuss how to evacuate in the event of a fire. "Reduce the risk as much as possible, so that if something does go wrong, it is relatively minor and can be dealt with," Wilson says.
Giving your kids a cell phone will help them feel connected. Also, show them where you keep the First Aid kit, and make sure it's well stocked. Make a list of important phone numbers and tack it up in an obvious place so they know who to call. Make sure a friend or neighbor is nearby who could help out in an emergency.
Babies Watching Babies
Babysitting is something of a rite of passage for most teenage girls. But for moms, the thought of two kids home alone together sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen. But it can be a great opportunity for teens (and a cheap night out for mom and dad!). Most kids start babysitting around age 12. Wilson suggests teens take a babysitter training program first, like Babysittermania.com.
Mom's the Boss
Just because mom is not around doesn't mean she's not still in charge. Lay down rules for what your kids can and cannot do when you're not home. You could even tack the rules up on the fridge. Some good basic ones are: The Internet is strictly off limits. No friends over. Don't answer the door for anyone. Don't answer the phone if you don't know who it is. Remember, you may not be home, but you're still the boss!
So moms, it's time to weigh in: when would you leave your offspring home alone?