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Home alone

If it hasn’t happened already, it’s likely to soon – that moment when for the first time you’re the oldest person at home, and therefore the ‘senior’ person responsible for the safety of everyone at home. If your parents allow you time alone at home, or ask you to care for younger siblings, it’s a clear indication of their trust in you – but that doesn’t mean you’re always ready to take on that load.

Most people think of their homes as environments in which they are safe and happy. However, sometimes our homes aren’t as safe as they could be, or as we wish they were. It is important that you know how to stay as safe as possible in your own home.

Every day, young people are at home by themselves for perfectly justifiable and acceptable reasons – to begin with, usually, while their parents go out for short errands, and later while their parents are out at social engagements or until they arrive home from work. Responsible parents won’t take any of these steps until their children are ready; however, some parents leave their children at ages when they are really not ready. If you’re not, say so; if you think you may be, start with a short period in daylight and see how you react.

What should my parents and I consider when deciding if I’m ready to be home alone?

You and your parents should sit down and consider the following when making a decision about when and for how long you might be ready to be alone:

House rules and expectations about what you’ll do when you’re home – will you do chores, or watch TV; can you use the phone; can you have visitors, can you use the internet; can you watch
  • Pay TV and order takeaway food, etc?
  • How you’ll respond to unsafe situations such as medical emergencies, fire or strangers
  • Whether you need to have someone with you
  • Whether you’re ready to care for younger siblings
There’s no rule about what age is the right age to be ‘ready;’ this is something you need to work out with your parents. Be honest don’t, for instance, pretend you’ll feel safe alone at night when you think you might become very anxious and have to call them home. Let them know if you think, for example, that you’ll be okay with a friend they know, but would prefer not to be alone; or that you’d like to start with an hour and work up from there.

Make everyone feel comfortable by practising what you’d do if certain situations came up. It may be that for the first few occasions, at least, the answer to everything except a serious medical emergency (when the first answer is ‘call 000’) is ‘call mum or dad’ – but other solutions may be more practical as you become used to having the responsibility of being home alone, or minding young children.

How can I stay safe if I’m home alone?

If you’ve been left alone by your parents, it’s likely you are considered old enough to take care of yourself for the period of time they will be gone – and that you, too, think you can cope. If you don’t feel comfortable being home alone – or, for instance, you’re okay alone during daylight hours but feel unsafe alone at night – you should tell your parents and arrange for company or another arrangement if they need to leave you.

If you are comfortable being home alone, there are certain safety practices you can carry out to make sure you’re as safe as possible.

Answering the phone:
  • Never inform a caller you don’t know that you are alone
  • Tell the caller your parents are not able to come to the phone
  • Take a message
  • Never tell the caller your address
  • Never answer the phone by saying your first or last name
  • If a caller you don’t know asks for your name, ask ‘who do you want to talk to?’
  • If a caller asks ‘what number is this?’ don’t give the number but ask ‘what number did you call?’
  • Never agree to buy anything over the phone
  • If you receive an obscene phone call, hang up immediately
  • If you have an answering machine, consider letting the machine pick up so you can hear who’s calling – and then pick up if you wish.

If you are comfortable being home alone, there are certain safety practices you can carry out to make sure you’re as safe as possible

Answering the door:
  • Leave an outside light on at night
  • Always ask ‘who is it?’ before opening the door
  • Keep the screen door locked while opening the door
  • If you have a peephole in the door, always look through it before opening the door – if it’s a stranger at the door, or someone you don’t trust, you can pretend no one is home.
  • Don’t let someone you don’t know or trust into the house
  • If the person doesn’t leave, call the police and a trusted nearby adult
  • Make sure your parents leave you with a list of emergency numbers – their mobile numbers and any numbers where they can be reached, trusted neighbours or other older people who live nearby, and the police.
What should I do if someone tries to enter the house?

If someone tries to ‘break in’ to your house:
  • Call the police immediately on Triple 000. Stay on the phone until they arrive
  • If someone starts to come inside call out ‘I am on the phone to the police and they are coming here now’
  • Never leave the house. There could be more than one person, and you are much safer inside than out.

Other Article Categories:

  • Body Boosters
  • Public Property
  • The Big Chat
  • Home Base
  • Street Smarts
  • Just in Case
  • Out and About
  • Drug Awareness
  • Personal Space