You and your spouse are going away for the weekend, your kids are going to be on their own for the first time, and you are worried about what could happen. Here are some steps to take to protect your family, and make sure they are going to be safe.
Different states have different guidelines about leaving children at home by themselves. These guidelines don’t provide hard-and-fast ages for a reason. A child of 11 may be better able to handle being on her own than her 16-year-old sibling. Your home state leaves it up to you to know when your children are ready to supervise themselves. Make sure you know your child enough that they will be able to handle anything that comes up.
How do your children handle unexpected events, whether you’re with them or not? How responsible are they? Have you taught your children about strangers, or how to use the stove? Do you have one child who prefers to ignore the rules? All of these questions should help guide you as you decide whether to leave them alone while you’re away for the weekend.
Before the big weekend, have a few practice runs. Explain your rules to your children, tell them to call you if they have any problems, then leave home for a short while. That should be a time period of about an hour, at most. Sit in the park and wait. To help you pass the time, take a book with you. Have your cell phone available, just in case your kids run into trouble.
What situations might your kids encounter? Maybe the microwave malfunctions, possibly someone called and one of your kids answered the call, saying you were away – which went completely against that rule. Or, if it was a hot day, maybe the air conditioner went on the fritz. Will your kids know who to call for HVAC services? This part of your preparation is to help you see where your kids might have problems and how you as parents can help prepare them for the unexpected.
Review your rules. These might include not allowing their friends to visit while you’re gone, not answering the door, or not being allowed to leave home until you come home. For their safety, your kids should understand why you have those rules. If you trust the friend of one of your children, that person can visit to help out. Another possibility is to invite a trusted family member to stop in several times during the weekend, to supervise.
When it comes time to leave your children on their own, it can be understandably difficult, and stressful. But try to think of it as giving your kids more self-confidence and independence. If they can handle a day by themselves, it can also help you out as they can become responsible for more things around the house.