Rules For Leaving Your Kids Alone For The First Time

1. Create a list of family friends or relatives to call in case they are unable to reach you in an emergency. The list should also include 911, Poison Control, your home address and phone number. Kids can panic in crisis make sure everything is spelled out for them. Keep the list in one place and never move it. If they have a cell phone, put all of those numbers in their cell phone as well.

2. Never play with knives. Or matches. Or Porn. The first two need to be told to them the latter requires parents to make sure that parental controls are on the television and computers.

3. In case they ignore the “Don’t Play with Knives” rule and decide to use one to open the plastic wrapped toy you bought them, make sure they know CPR or at the very least first aid. How to stop bleeding for example.

4. In case they ignore the “Don’t play with matches” rule or decide to cook up a four course meal, they should most definitely be instructed what to do in case of a fire. Including how to use a fire extinguisher but most importantly, “We love you way more than this house,” so GET OUT if the fire is big. Also, trying to save your Xbox is a REALLY bad idea.

5. NEVER answer the front door. EVER. (The same applies to the back door.)

6.Never tell others you are home alone. This includes posting on your Facebook wall, “OMG. My stupid parents finally trusted me enough to leave me alone. Who wants to come over?” Which leads to the next point.

7. No friends over. PERIOD. It’s a liability, a distraction and an invitation for mischief.

8. Tell them you will be home in about an hour and get back home in 30 minutes. My parents taught me this one. Brilliant move by them. I never knew when they would be home which kept me on my toes and out of trouble.

9. Instruct them to never take medicine without calling you first. Our son’s friend once took an OTC cough medicine while his parents were out. After reading the dosage of two tablespoons, he decided, and I use his words, “If two is good, eight must be better.” He was thirteen at the time. You never know when a case of the stupids will attack. Make sure you cover your bases.

10. Create a contract. Put the rules on paper. Can they go outside? Can they use the stove? And so on and so on. Read over it with your child and you both sign the contract.

About the writer

Stefanie Mullen is the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend’s Soul and owner and founder of, a site devoted to the parenting of tweens and teens. She is married to an incredible man and is the mother of three wonderful boys, two teens and a kindergartner.


Katie 3 years ago

My parents first left me alone at home for an hour or two when I was six, and with my brothers (two and four year younger) when I was seven or eight. The rules were always clear: No going outside, no using the stove, no answering the door, no taking medicine, no baths/showers (we could slip and die or drown and die), everyone listens to the oldest person present (usually me), in case of an emergency (fire, earthquake) leave the house, don’t try to bring anything with you (or, back when we lived in Ann Arbor, if there’s a hurricane or tornado, same thing but the basement), [inviting over friends or telling them that we were alone was never something I would even consider doing], call, email, or Skype if we want an exception to any of the above, call, email, or Skype if anything happens (somebody cut themselves, my brothers fought, etc.). We’re very responsible though. I could make my brother hot oatmeal (cooked, not microwaved) when I was four and tell my dad what to get at the grocery store when I was two.

Jenn 3 years ago

Great list! What ages are we talking about here? Like, I will leave my 13 yr old daughter alone if I am going shopping or whatever as long as I’m no more than 20 minutes away. My 12 yr old daughter is way less mature and responsible than my oldest so she doesn’t get alone time for more than the 5 min it takes me to get milk from the convenience store three blocks away.
Do these situations sound about right/normal?

Lisa 3 years ago

I just wanted to make sure you know there is hope for getting time alone again. While my oldest wasn’t safe to leave alone until almost an adult, my younger two are way more responsible and have been managing at home alone very well.

Debbie 3 years ago

Good list Stefanie. Teaching them about fires etc is great. you never know what can happen. Also I did start out with mine, leaving them for short times. And yes, telling them an hour and making it 30 minutes is great.

As for emgerencies one time when I left my 3 home, they called me because there was a big spider on the floor. When I got home they were all on top of furniture and sure enough the spider was pretty darn big. So you might want to have a can of raid around incase of this emergency. I have to say it was pretty funny and we still laugh about it. Teach them how to take care of those tiny creepy things.

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense 3 years ago

How bout if just NEVER EVER leave my kids alone, EVER, until they’re like, 30? That’s reasonable, right?


Emily 3 years ago

I wrote a post on this not too long ago, called Home Alone: Don’t Fry Any Eggs. Yeah, we forgot to say, “no cooking” while we are gone. Big mistake, and big mess in the kitchen. And saving the XBox, oh yeah, that would so be my 3 boys. Great post!

Stacey 3 years ago

Great list! My kid would totally try to save the Xbox. Neighbor’s kid got in major trouble for doing exactly #6…that was a year ago, she still hasn’t gotten her Facebook account back!

Iiona V 3 years ago

This is why they will not be home alone until my middle child (a girl) can be in charge. Right now they are, 11, 6 & 5 so I have time…

Angela Speck 3 years ago

I love this list. I’m lucky that my kids are self-confident enough to be left alone already for short periods (they are 6 and 9 and I do NOT leave them alone together) – so by the time they are in their teens they’ll know the drill.

Kristyann 3 years ago

This list is great! My son’s are still far away from being left alone, but I will have to keep these rules in mind when they can be left alone for the first time. I’d also have to add the rule “No fighting with each other”. Although, that’s going to happen weather I’m home with them or not.

Karen 3 years ago

This is actually a great list. I’ve been gearing up to leave my son home alone and trying to make sure I’ve covered everything. I’m just not actually sure he has HEARD everything. Baby steps. I think my first outing will only be ten minutes tops, a walk around the block. I’ll be able to see smoke. 😉

Carolina 3 years ago

#5 made me giggle. Just remembering when I was young…millions of years ago. My parents said the same thing. So in one occasion, when a friend was over, the mailman ranged the doorbell as we were passing the window (shades drawn of course), scared the beejesus outta me, I ended up pushing her to the ground combat style. To this day she stills give me shit for it.
Awesome list! Defiantly will have to print it out when the time comes…in like 20 years. (yes that would mean my son will be 22)

Amy 3 years ago

I have longed for the day I can leave the kids home alone, and now I’m terrified. Luckily they’re only three and five. I’ve got time to draft the contract and teach them first aid.

Great list! Very thoughtful.

Alana 3 years ago

So true, my then 14 caused a fire. He looked at the extinguisher, but didn’t try to use it. He also took the time to unhook the gaming systems and take games out of the cases instead of leaving the house right away. Luckily he was fine and I had excellent home insurance.

Anne Kimball 3 years ago

Great list here, Stefanie. Our most difficult battle has been with keeping one of our more curious young teens away from the “inappropriate material”. So check, check, and recheck your parental controls!
Love rule #8. I never thought of this before! I’ve got six teens, and have got being devious down to a science, but you’ve got me beat here. I bow to you…


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