September 23, 2021

Home alone: What do my kids need to know?

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If they’re staying home alone, equip your children with this information for their safety.

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 to stay home by themselves, but you’re still wondering how to keep them safe, make sure you’re following these guidelines:

Communication

Leave a cell phone with your child to 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 you can’t be reached.

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 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.

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, including sales people, or telling anyone — in person or over the phone or online — about being 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.

Five children run in an open field on a sunny day.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is among the top children’s hospitals in the nation. More than 500 physicians in 30 pediatric and surgical specialties offer everything from basic preventive care to treatment for the most complex pediatric conditions. Our specialists offer expert care close to home, throughout Middle Tennessee and beyond.

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