Do you ever wonder how people leave their children home alone? As a mother of four, with over 21 years of experience, I have had to do this quite a few times. My first time doing it, I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest, and every imaginable thing that could happen was playing in my head. With experience, I found that the key to doing this successfully is about how to prepare your children to stay home alone, and these tips will help you learn how to do this naturally and with less stress.
How to Prepare Your Children to Stay Home Alone
That very first time that we left our children at home was a spare of the moment situation that my husband wanted to take me for a ride on his new motorcycle. I told him that I couldn't because of the children, and he insisted that our oldest could handle the situation for 30 minutes, and my husband can be very persuasive, so I gave in.
Prior to leaving, I made sure they knew not to answer the door or the phone until we came back. The three of them, the oldest being a very mature 12 year old, all agreed and watched us drive away from the window.
Immediately, as we drove away, my mind went through all kinds of things that could have happened in my absence and the stress was building. My husband was having a wonderful time, as I was imagining neighbors turning us in to the CPA for child neglect, much like the scene that Allison played out in the Mom's Night Out movie.
Our first trip only lasted for about 10 minutes, and to my horror, my mother-in-law and brother-in-law came while we were gone and my children wouldn't answer the door, passing their first test with flying colors, however my in-laws could hear them inside the house the whole time.
I knew that there was some preparation I needed to do to prepare our children to stay home alone, because my husband made it clear that we were meant to take many of these rides on the weekend.
Focus On Their Interaction
One of the most stressful things about leaving your children home alone is how they interact with each other. If you have a lot of strife in your home while you are there, it will only increase in your absence. I know this for a fact because my own brother would get physically mean when my parents were gone, and because of this experience, we didn't permit our children to hit one another, ever.
We also didn't allow our children to boss each other, as they are equals, regardless of their ages. We instructed them to encourage each other if one of them were struggling with obedience or their responsibilities, but they were not allowed to usurp authority over each other.
This made it easier when we would leave them home alone, but we still needed our oldest to be ‘in charge', so we had them memorize the verse, “Obey those that have the charge or rule over you.” (Hebrews 13:17) We would have our oldest be the one in charge, each time, and she tended to be bossy on normal days, so we needed to remind her that it is better to serve than be served, to teach her humility.
Set Guidelines for What Is Allowed During Your Absence
Having a list of things that they can and can't do while they are home alone will help a lot. From what they can watch, play, eat or call should all be on this list.
I learned this the hard way!
Many years ago, while I was speaking at a local MOPS meeting, I left my children home to do their school work and knowing that they have done this before, I didn't expect any issues but left my phone on just in case there was an emergency.
Right in the middle of my talk, my cell phone rings. It was home, and my heart raced! I apologized to the group of ladies, and answered it, to only find out that my 12 year old son wanted a mid-morning snack and wanted to be sure it was okay. I heard my 14 year old daughter in the back ground telling him that “I told you not to call her! You are going to be in trouble.”
My daughter was completely right!
Create a Family Phone Book
You never know what may happen while you are gone, and your children are left home by themselves, so having a phone book with numbers to neighbors, close friends and emergency numbers in a place where it can always be found is a tool that you may already have and use.
We went further with this and programmed important numbers into our phone, so they can easily dial it, in case of an emergency. This helped when our son had a febrile seizer and my older children had to help us get help immediately.
Keep Your Children Accountable
I can't stress how important it is to keep your children accountable the moment you return home. Always take at least a few minutes to ask each of them how things went, and if you need to deal with any issues. Having this accountability will allow all the other preparations to stay in place, and will allow all your children to know that the system in place is there for a purpose and you will ensure it stays that way.
Enforce any consequences immediately, and remind those that had issues that the next time you leave them home, you may add consequences if the same issues arise in your absence.
Don't forget to praise your children for following the guidelines and working together as a family!
Once our family had these preparations in place, my husband and I had more freedom to take advantage of babysitting aged children, and went on more dates with each other, and our time away grew as our trust in our children proved itself.
I still have crazy thoughts that come into my mind of all the possible things that could go wrong, but I will have to write about that another day.
I would love to hear any tips that has helped you prepare your children to stay home alone!