Between work, school, grocery shopping and running around to your kids’ after-school activities, moms can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. When you have to drag the entire clan with you on the daily errands, it can be even more difficult to get anything accomplished before someone needs a diaper change, snack or a bathroom break. For this reason, moms look forward to the day when the eldest child can take charge and stay home alone to babysit the little ones. However, it’s tough to know when the time is right for this major increase in responsibility. Here are some things to consider before determining whether or not your child is ready to be home alone babysitting younger siblings:
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic age when your child will be ready to take on this big responsibility; every child is different. According to WebMD, “by age 10 or 11, it’s OK to leave a child alone for short periods of time (under an hour) during the day provided they’re not scared and you think they’re mature enough to handle it.”
But while some kids are ready to babysit at age 10 or 11, others may not feel comfortable until age 13 or 14. Take time to reflect on your child’s maturity level and see what is right for them. Consider how much you trust your child’s judgment and ability to think on his or her feet in unexpected situations.
Think about how you would rank your child’s level of responsibility on a scale of 1-10. Does your child work diligently at school and respect the rules? Does your son or daughter follow through on their commitments? When babysitting alone, you need to be able to trust that they will follow your instructions.
Setting clear ground rules is essential when first leaving a child at home and can be a great way to establish trust between parent and child. Do you want your child playing hour after hour of video games? Are they allowed to have friends over or play in the front yard? No? Put it writing and hold them accountable. You’ll feel a lot better if you set clear guidelines for your child.
If you are still a little unnerved about what may happen when you’re not there, you can always use home security reviews to find a system that allows you to keep an eye on things remotely. There are a number of systems that allow you to monitor your property from your phone or tablet. Some security systems will even send alerts when someone enters or leaves, so you’ll know if your child is having friends come over without your permission.
Age of Sibling
Consider the age of your younger child and how your kids get along. If the youngest is just a year or two younger than the eldest and you can trust him or her to listen to their sibling, perhaps your kids are ready for this milestone. However, if you have an infant or a toddler, it may be best to wait until your eldest is 15 or 16, as children so young need more constant attention than many tweens can provide.
Do you trust your child to make good choices? Does he or she ask for help when in over their head? Before you leave your son or daughter home alone to care for siblings, you should be confident that they can handle any unexpected situations that arise.