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Home Alone?

Care About Quality was published by the California Department of Education in 2000.

If you are just beginning to search for child care, it may seem as though it will be years before you’ll be able to leave your child alone. However, time flies, and before you know it, your infant has grown up and is in middle school. There may be a short errand you need to run or a day when your child will arrive home from school 20 minutes before you get home from work. Is it okay to let your child be home alone?

Although there’s no sure sign to let you know when your child is ready to be left home alone, the following checklist may help:

  • Would your child rather stay home than go to a child care or after-school program?
  • Is he easily frightened?
  • Is she responsible?
  • Can he creatively solve problems?
  • Would she spend her time responsibly?
  • Does your child become bored easily?
  • Does he always let you know where he is going and when he will return?
  • Would she be at home with an older brother or sister?  Do siblings get along?
  • Would the older sibling resent caring for the younger one?
  • Would caring for the younger sibling restrict the older child’s activities?
  • Do you live in an isolated area without close neighbors?
  • Is your neighborhood safe?
  • Will you or another adult always be available to your child in case of an emergency?
  • Is a neighbor home to help if needed?

How would your child handle:

  • Strangers on the telephone or at the door?
  • Being locked out of the house? Fire?
  • Arguments with a sister or brother?
  • An insect bite or a skinned knee?
Before your child stays home alone, write out the house rules and put them in an easy-to-find place. Let your child know that he may change his mind and go back to after-school care if he chooses. Decide on a trial period to iron out the wrinkles and modify the rules if needed. At this time, you may decide it is best to put your child back into a child care program. Use the trial period to review house rules, first aid, and safety skills.
Consider establishing rules on the following:
  • How long your child will be alone
  • Which friends may come to your home
  • Television—what programs may be watched?
  • Food she may eat
  • Using the stove, telephone, computer, appliances, or tools
  • Leaving the house
  • How she can reach you

The Balancing Act

Care About Quality Table of Contents

Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Thursday, November 19, 2015
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