In today’s times, when both parents are working, our little ones often have to spend some time alone at home. That is not a bad thing, though. Older children should be allowed to spend a little time alone at home. It teaches them some amount of independence and makes them not fear the idea of being alone. That said, ensuring children’s safety while they are alone at home is a major parental responsibility.
In most foreign countries, 8-10 is the average age a child has to be for him/her to be left alone. In India, this mostly depends on how developed the particular child is. But for the interest of safety, let’s stick to 10. That said, age alone isn’t a factor when deciding whether a minor can be left alone at home. Look for the following in the child –
- A sense of responsibility
- An understanding of safety and first aid measures
- An interest to follow instructions and show obedience
- An ability to make good judgments
The next step would be to analyze your housing arrangement. Independent houses are a strict no-no for kids to be left alone. Apartment complexes are safer and hence more suitable for a kid be alone in. If your building is using the ADDA app, safety is pretty much at a higher level. Even more, if your apartment is using the ADDA Gatekeeper.
So, assuming that the child is developed enough to take care of himself and that the apartment is safe, here are the list of things you must adhere to while leaving a 10+ year old alone at home.
1. Always be connected to the child
Landlines or mobiles are must haves for a kid who is alone at home. Should an emergency occur, the kid should have the equipment to contact parents or guardians. Not that it is necessary with kids these days, but they should be capable of making calls or contacting emergency services if it comes down to it. Thankfully, kids these days are pretty tech-savvy, they can easily navigate around on the internet and send/receive pics on WhatsApp and other social media. Making a phone call would be a cakewalk for them.
2. Childproof before you leave
Ensure that the entire apartment is childproofed and that potential damage-causing articles are stored away. Here are a few things you must check for
- Gas cylinders must be turned off
- Sharp objects like knives, blades etc must be kept out of reach
- Chemicals/medicines and other toxins that could be ingested must be kept locked
- Instruct the child to not go into the balcony unattended
Ideally, sit with your child and give him a list of things he’s allowed to do and a list of places he’s allowed to be. There’s no guarantee that they’ll stick to it because they are kids and they might have a tendency to explore. But it is best to keep the informed about the dangers that various things around the apartment pose.
3. Leave a word with a friendly neighbor
Let a friendly neighbor know that your kid is alone at home and will be alone for x no. of hours. Politely ask them to check on them once in awhile and request them to help out in case the kid needs something. This is essential because adventurous kids wander off to meet their friends and they may be less than careful to lock the doors behind them. Or they may step out accidentally and lock themselves out. Having an adult dropping by occasionally will at least ensure that anything amiss will be caught early on.
4. Nanny Cams or CCTV
This is not a doable option for everyone, but it would be great to have a recording one at least if not a broadcasting one. In the event that something terrible did happen, a footage may help shed some light on what went wrong.
5. Have another kid stay over
It is always best to have company. If you have more than one child, leaving the two alone at home could turn your house upside down but that is better than one child all by himself. Make sure that both kids know basic first aid steps and that they have enough understanding of personal safety.
6. Leave instructions for the child
Write them in large letters and have it pinned somewhere. Big or small, having some rules in place is essential for everyone’s safety, more so for kids’. Have the following pinned somewhere
- Do not leave the home without calling parents
- Do not interact with strangers who ring the bell. Even better, do not open if you see through the viewing hole that there’s a stranger outside.
- Here having a grill door outside your main door helps. The child can be instructed to only open the main door and never open the grill door for any unknown person.
- Call parents/guardians periodically to update them or answer all calls from parents
You can also assign a safe house/safe spot for the kid to run to in case he/she feels unsafe.
Kids Will Be Kids
We understand that it is difficult to manage children while having busy careers. But your responsibility to your child is endless. Even with the most intelligent and responsible kids, things could go wrong. In some cases, a simple fall can cause fatal damage if medical attention is not provided within minutes. Let that sink in.
If your job requires you to leave your kid alone and often, think of an alternative. Shell out some cash and arrange a nanny or get your ward admitted to some day-care/ skill development classes. Leaving children alone frequently and for long has a not so favorable impact on their minds and it could not be good for them. Let them learn music, or art or something they are interested in.
We understand the predicament you are in and we know that you are doing your best as a parent. We’re sure you’ll find a way to balance everything. And if you have some insights or ideas on this topic, do share them with us so that others could benefit from it. Good luck!
Authored By: Ambili Mukundan