June 20, 2016

Home alone: What do my kids need to know?


If they’re staying home alone, equip your children with this info for a safe and healthy summer.

Tennessee does not have a legal age for when kids are old enough to stay home alone, according to Tennessee State Courts.  Parents should always check the laws in their states when making the decision on when to allow a child to stay home alone, but also keep in mind that, regardless of the laws, every child is different. Some children may not be ready at the “stated age” set forth by their states.

Parents are advised not to leave children under 10 alone and to take into consideration an older child’s maturity level and preparedness.

If you’ve determined that your kids are ready for it this summer, but you’re still wondering how to keep your kids safe when they’re home alone, make sure you’re following these guidelines:


Leave a cellphone with your child so that he or she can check in with you via text. Make sure your child knows how to reach someone else — a trusted neighbor, friend or family member — in case he or she cannot get ahold of you.

Emergency contact info

Your child should know how to call 911 and know your city’s non-emergency numbers. (Nashville Police: 615-862-8600 and Nashville Fire: 615-862-5421).

Teach your child about what constitutes an emergency and stress the importance of never calling 911 as a prank.

Fire hazards, storms and more

Teach your child about fire hazards, including those regarding cooking, and make sure he or she knows how to escape in the event of a fire. Your child should also know where to go if there is a severe weather warning. Remember that the occasional minor mishap is likely to occur. Talk to your child about how to stop a toilet from overflowing and how to keep Fido safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has printable cards to place around the house.

Security systems

Make sure your child knows how to set and turn off the alarm system when coming and going, and how to keep it set while home.

Solicitors and strangers

Talk to your child about never answering the door to strangers or telling anyone — in person or over the phone or online — that he or she is home alone.

House rules and sibling rivalry

Discuss what is expected of your children. Make a list of household chores for each child so they don’t fight over who has to do what. Make clear rules about who is allowed to visit the house while you are away and where your children are allowed to go.

For more information about safety this summer, visit the CDC.