Child Supervision Guidelines
Is your child ready to be left alone?
Considering when to leave your child at home alone for a few hours is an important decision. It may be helpful to know that the Child and Family Services Act Considering states that "No person having charge of a child less than 16 years of age shall leave the child without making provision for his or her supervision and care that is reasonable in the circumstances."
You need to ensure supervision and care that is sufficient for the child, taking into account your child's age and his or her developmental level. It's also important to consider the length of time and time of day your child will be unsupervised, as well as the following questions:
- Has your child shown you that they can take care of himself or herself?
- Can your child find safe activities to do?
- Can your child remember instructions and follow them?
- Does your child show good judgement and have experience working out problems independently?
- Does your child know what to do in an emergency?
- Does your child have special needs that make it difficult for them to take care of himself or herself?
- Can your child seek help right away, or get out of your home in an emergency?
- Does your child have any behaviours that may be a problem if her or she is left alone?
- Are there risks in your home or environment such as dangerous substances, machinery or potential fire or water hazards?
When your child is home alone, there must be a fast and easy way for them to reach you. You must be able to help quickly or arrange for another responsible adult to help the child in case of emergency.
You must make sure your child is ready to handle any emergency that might happen while he or she is alone, like a fire, a flooded toilet, injury or other emergency. Your child needs you to coach them about what to do when someone knocks on the door or calls for you on the telephone when you are not home. You will need to make clear rules about when (or if) friends can come over when you are out.
Periods of family stress such as separation or divorce, moving, or the death of a family member, are not good times to begin leaving your child alone. Wait until your child feels settled again before leaving them alone for the first time.
Your child's environment
Consider where you live. Do you feel that your neighbourhood is safe? Are you and your family a target of violence or harassment? Are there people nearby that you can count on to check in with your child and/or who your child can call if there is a problem? If you have any worries about the safety of where you live, it may not be a good choice to leave your child at home without a trusted caregiver.
Is your home safe? Be sure there is a list of emergency numbers, including adults who can help if needed. Your home should have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and your child should know what to do if they go off. Keep your home free of hazards such as poisons, unlocked firearms, and exposed wiring. Make very clear rules about using the stove, iron and other hot appliances. Keep in mind that even though your child may be responsible enough to be alone for a few hours, they may not necessarily be responsible enough to cook or use the microwave.
Your child's reaction
Think about how your child has handled stressful, difficult or frightening situations in the past. Ask if there is anything they might be afraid of, and how confident they feel about handling different situations alone.