Leaving Your Teen Home Alone Overnight?
Knowing whether to leave a teen home alone overnight is a struggle for many parents. Whether you have a business meeting out of town or you would like an anniversary getaway, it can feel stressful to figure out whether you should leave your child unsupervised overnight.
We recommend you consider alternatives to leaving them alone. The best solution is to send your teen to someone else’s home, preferably a friend, or invite a trusted adult to stay at your house. But if these are not options and you need to get away, here are suggestions on what to do before you leave:
Establish clear and specific expectations and rules.
You must state your expectations and rules while you are gone. Rules should be fair, firm and clear with specific consequences for not following them. Your expectations must be detailed, such as how much TV or screen time is allowed, what channels are off-limits, whether your child can answer the phone or the door, and whether your teen is allowed to use the microwave or oven. If you don’t want your teen to invite a friend over, or you don’t want your teen to go out with friends for the evening, make that clear. Also, let your teen know if you expect him/her to practice the piano, do homework, or other tasks during his/her time alone. Finally, parents should state that parties are not allowed. Discuss the consequences, such as losing driving privileges or the ability to spend time with friends, if any of the rules are broken.
Do a safety check.
Double check that smoke detectors are operating properly. Give your teen specific guidelines for keeping the door locked at all times. Restock your first aid kit and teach your teen how to use it (or enroll your teen in a local first aid class through your Red Cross). Talk to your teen about not announcing (on social media or to anyone in person) that you will be out of town. Discuss the proper way to handle emergency situations, such as a small kitchen fire, power outage, or a medical emergency. Think through any other possible problem areas that could cause your teen harm.
Assign a Contact Person
If you are going out of town, it’s important for your teen to have a local contact person. Assign a couple of trusted friends or family members to be a point of contact. In the event of an emergency (like a fire or storm) or if your teen experiences a problem (such as feeling scared or getting a sport injury) you should have an emergency contact list of phone numbers so your teen knows how to get help. In addition, it can be helpful to ask your contact to check on your teen. If your teen knows there will be someone checking, he/she might be more likely to behave responsibly.
Schedule a Time to Check-In
Before you leave, schedule a time where you’ll check-in with one another. For example, you could tell your teen that you will call him/her at 8 p.m. and you expect him/her to be available at that time. Or, you could ask your teen to text you when he/she gets home from their sports practice. Pick whatever time makes sense for your family, but do touch base.
Finally, the most important thing you should do before you leave overnight is lock away all firearms, alcohol, tobacco products, and medications (especially prescription painkillers or ADHD medication). Even if you don’t think your teen would ever touch those items, peer pressure could influence your teen to make poor choices. These items are too risky and tempting to adolescents.