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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

At some point in every parent’s life, they will leave their child or children alone. This is a huge step mentally and physically, because it represents the period when the training wheels come off. All of the parenting up to that point comes into play as children are left to fend for themselves (at least somewhat).

It’s natural for parents to ask themselves when the right time is to leave their children alone for the first time. Because this is a widespread worry, I’ve created a helpful list. Below is an easy step by step checklist to help parents decide if their child is ready to be left unsupervised. Your situation will undoubtedly be unique, but this article is meant to inspire thoughts in your head that will help you determine your best course of action as a parent.

  1. Age.
  2. The age that your child is when you decide to leave him or her alone is very important. It’s even important from a legal standpoint in some states. Illinois and Maryland have restrictions and guidelines for how old a child must be to leave them at home unsupervised. If you are in one of the other 48 states, your judgment is going to be responsible for the decision. Does your child seem old enough to you to be unsupervised? Is he or she old enough to understand that you will be gone and they will be fending for themselves?

  3. Maturity.
  4. Regardless of age, children need to have a certain degree of maturity before they are left alone. Specific age guidelines are a little bit irrelevant in my opinion because every child’s maturity is relative to their particular situation and upbringing. You as a parent understand the maturity of your child better than anyone else, and it’s your duty to decide whether he or she is developed enough to be left alone. Are they obedient? Will they follow rules that you implement?

  5. Safety Skills.
  6. Is your child equipped with enough knowledge and resources to nearly guarantee their safety? Do they have emergency phone number accessible? If there’s an alarm system, does he or she understand what to do if it goes off? Does your child know how to lock and unlock doors? For the right people? The safety skills required will undoubtedly vary by situation, but you can internalize the principle from this. Ask yourself before you leave your child alone if they are capable of keeping themselves safe in the place they’ll be.

  7. State of affairs.
  8. In what circumstances are you leaving your child? Is it reasonable considering the age, maturity and behavior of the child? The length of time you decide to leave a child alone for the first time is very important. As with most everything else in life, it’s best to leave children alone for a short period of time at first. Ease into the process and you and your child will simultaneously gain mutual confidence in the new situation.

  9. Understanding.
  10. Does your child understand very clearly that you are leaving them home alone? Being unsupervised can leave children scared, paranoid and lonely. Make sure they understand the length of time you’ll be gone, why you’ll be gone and what exactly they should do if they need to talk with you. This complete understanding will lead to a more seamless situation for both of you.

Being a parent is a very complex obligation. Leaving your child alone is just one of the many tough decisions you will face along the journey. Take the time to assess the various components of the situation. You are the only one that knows your family, and this list is meant to help you make the right decision based on your relative scenario.

Naomi Broderick is a professional writer who is secure in her abilities and even more confident in her parenting. When she’s not juggling her three children in the front yard she writes for ProtectYourHome.com, a leader in home security

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to manage the “home alone” milestone wisely.