Babysitting siblings… what you need to know.
- Can my eldest child babysit their siblings?
- How do I know when my eldest child is ready to babysit their siblings?
- Is there a legal age for my children to stay home alone together?
- What house rules should I consider establishing to keep my children safe while staying home alone?
- What safety measures should I have in place to ensure my children will be safe staying home alone?
- What incentives should I consider to entice my children to stay home alone safely?
- Should my children be allowed to go outside when home alone?
- How does my eldest child discipline their younger siblings when home alone?
These are just a few questions parents may have when considering when they should leave their children home alone.
Parents have a big responsibility to ensure their children will be safe when they are home alone. They should consider the maturity of their eldest child. How comfortable are they staying home alone? The older sibling should take a Home Alone Workshop to prepare a safety plan. Having a safety plan is essential for all children staying home alone. If they show signs of maturity, they may be ready to care for their younger siblings.
Consider the following:
- Think of safety first. The older sibling needs to be aware of the safety items for the home, including where the fire extinguisher is, where the exits are and where the first aid kit is located. They should take a Babysitting course which includes basic CPR & First Aid and keep all the emergency numbers such as 911 and the Poison Control Centre near the phone. Other important numbers such as the parents’ cell phone number, a trusted neighbour or relative should also be near the phone. The older sibling should be comfortable with calling 911 in case of an emergency.
- While most provinces in Canada do not have a legal age for staying home alone or babysitting, you must ensure adequate supervision and have remote communication with your children at all times.
- Parents must also ensure that clear rules are explained to the children prior to them staying home alone.
- Are the children allowed to play outside?
- Can they have friends over?
- Are the children allowed to have snacks while home alone, if so what can they have to eat?
- What about using the internet? If so, for what… homework, gaming, social media?
The answer to these questions will depend on your family situation. For example, if you live in the country or in a small town or a large city. It will also depend on how comfortable you are as a parent knowing your child’s maturity level, the length of time they will be home alone, and many other factors.
Younger siblings must be willing to obey these rules and older siblings must be able to implement them properly. Talk to your children about discipline. Explain to the older child how they should discipline their younger siblings. The same discipline does not work on all children.
- Consider offering incentives, if the younger siblings are offered incentives for good behavior, they will be more willing to behave appropriately. Instead of paying the older siblings for babysitting, exchange their services for privileges. They will often choose privileges over money.
- Parents should have a list of responsibilities for their children to do while home alone. Simple tasks such as feeding the pet, setting the diner table, cleaning their room and keeping the house tidy are all great responsibilities that children can do. Children as young as nine can take a Home Alone Workshop and learn so much about responsibilities and the privilege of staying home alone.
Finally you want to try it out for a short period of time and see how it goes. For example, if a parent needs to go to the corner store for bread and milk. Sit down with your children after and discuss how they feel and any concerns they may have.