Children and Self Care


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Many children take care of themselves after school, in the evening, on weekends, or during school vacations -- whenever a parent or other adult cannot be at home with them. Although self-care can be a rewarding and positive experience for children who are ready and prepared for it, if a child is not mature enough, self-care can produce anxiety and lead to a dangerous situation.

Questions to ask when determining if a child is ready for self-care include:

  1. Is he physically ready to stay alone at home, (can he perform everyday tasks such as making a snack, dialing a phone, and taking a message)?
  2. Is he mentally ready to stay alone at home, (does he understand what "stranger" and "emergency mean)?
  3. Is he socially ready to stay alone at home, (feel confident enough to contact another adult if there is a problem)?
  4. Is he emotionally ready to stay alone at home, (feel confident and secure when alone)?
  5. Is your home and neighborhood safe to leave your child alone at home?

If you decide to leave your child alone at home:

  1. Make sure he has essential information and skills such as, important names, telephone numbers, and addresses; knows how to answer the telephone and what to do if someone comes to the door; can use appliances approved for him to use; and knows how to enter and exit the house.
  2. Establish reasonable rules addressing who can visit, where he can and cannot go, and telephone and Internet use.
  3. Develop a daily schedule, e.g., what to do when he gets home – check in with you, eat a snack, play, do homework.

With proper preparation and good communication, your child is more likely to feel safe and secure and to benefit from the opportunity to care for himself.
Source: Ferrer, M. and Fugate, A.M. 2003. Children in Self-Care