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Preparing Your Preteen to Spend Time Home Alone

By Suzanna Narducci

Now that your child is a preteen, staying home alone is an option. Perhaps, you’ve already left them alone for a few minutes while running an errand or picking up a sibling. Older tweens often enjoy the independence, but may not know how to take care of themselves in an emergency. TweenParent.com has come up with some tips and ideas that we think will help you prepare your preteen to stay home on their own.

Things to Consider Before Leaving Your Tween Home Alone

  • Does your preteen want to stay home alone or will they be frightened?
  • Does your tween show reasonable behavior when choosing independent activities?
  • Is your tween reliable and responsible while doing daily activities and chores around the house?
  • Is your preteen self-sufficient? (Do they recognize when they are hungry and can they prepare small meals and snacks by themselves?)
  • Does your tween follow rules and instructions?
  • Do you trust your preteen not to panic in unexpected situations?
  • Is your tween comfortable using the telephone?
  • Does your preteen know how to handle emergency situations?
  • Has your preteen ever played with matches, fire or other dangerous objects?
  • Does your tween have a medical condition that would make them vulnerable if left home alone?

Teaching Your Preteen How to Handle an Emergency

  • Give your tween a lesson in first-aid 101
  • Show your preteen how to call 911.
  • Teach your tween what to do in case of a fire. Remember that fire department rules for apartments are different than houses. If you live in an apartment check the fire department’s recommendations for your building.
  • Find a reliable neighbor that your tween can go to and/or call in the case of an emergency.
  • Establish a meeting area outside your home in case your child needs to leave in the event of an emergency.

Lists For Your Tween

  • Important Contact Information – Include your telephone numbers and a neighbor’s number. A grown up should always be available for your preteen.
  • Emergency Numbers – All the basics; 911 for fire and first aid, the poison control center, and your doctors and dentist’s information.
  • Home Address and Phone Number – In an emergency, your tween may be too flustered to remember even basic information.
  • A Chart of First-Aid Procedures – Easy access to this information will help your child make good choices.

   
Our Recommendations For House Rules While Home Alone

  • Preteens should not tell anyone that they are home alone. However, if your tween gets caught in an awkward conversation, it’s important for them to know that it is okay to fib to strangers about being home alone.
  • Tweens should not answer the door while home alone.
  • Consider not allowing any friends in the house without your permission. Keep in mind that you don’t want to get the reputation of having the house without grown up supervision.
  • Make rules about answering the phone. For example, you may want your preteen to pick up the phone only if they recognize your voice on the answering machine or see your number on caller ID. 
  • Structure your tween’s time. Write a list of things you expect to get done while you are away — homework, chores, make a snack.
  • Decide what kitchen appliances your kids are allowed to use. Most people feel comfortable letting their preteens use the microwave and toaster, but not the stove.
  • Establish clear guidelines about using the computer, TV, or playing video games while you are away.
  • Decide if your preteen needs to have permission to go outside.

Home Alone Tips

  • Have easy to make snacks and food readily available for your preteen.
  • Show your tween where the first aid kit, flashlights and batteries are kept.
  • Remember to lock the door on your way out.
  • Warn your preteen never to go into their home if something looks out of place. A broken window, open door, forced lock or ripped screen could be a clue to a robbery.

Transitioning Your Kids

  • Go out for only five to ten minutes the first time you leave your tween alone.
  • Structure your preteen’s time. They may feel more comfortable if they have something to do.
  • Talk to your tween about how they feel about being left alone. If they have concerns, this is your cue that they are not ready. 
  • If there is stress in your household, wait until things are “back to normal” before leaving your pretee