Several parents are extremely wary of leaving their kids to spend the night alone at home – especially without a chaperone. On the internet, you’ll come across several horror tales of teens whose parents trusted them to act responsibly when left to spend the night alone but it went awry.
Most times, the minute most teens realize there is no adult around supervising them, they go wild, inviting all sorts of people into their home and even teen drinking.
A previously sane house suddenly turns rowdy and untamed like a disturbed hornet nest becoming a nuisance in the neighborhood for the entire night.
It’s not particularly new that when a house is parent-free, it becomes the hotbed for raunchy and drunken parties, filled with hard drugs and activities that could lead to unplanned pregnancies.
However, a parent knows how difficult it is to employ a babysitter for a teenager that is in high school. By the way, there comes a stage where teens need to learn to start being more responsible – especially when there’s no one to constantly check upon them.
If you’re wondering whether your teen is worthy enough to handle spending the night alone, here are a few things to consider.
It’s Not All about Age, What Matters Most Is the Level of Maturity
There is really no ideal age to start trusting your teen to stay alone at home. However, there are some ways to determine if your teen is matured enough to handle this enormous responsibility.
- Peer Pressure
The very first thing every parent should consider is if your teen can withstand peer pressure.
If your kid easily gives in to social pressure, then you might want to reconsider letting them stay at home alone for longer periods. This includes all times of the day, not just nights alone.
The reason for this is not far-fetched. Such kids are likely to fall prey to pushy friends who are looking for an adult-free house to carry out whatever mischievous activity they have in mind.
So the foremost determiner to letting your child stay at home by themselves is the ability to stand firm against pressure from friends.
- Keeping calm during emergency
The next factor is the ability to respond appropriately and keep calm in the face of an emergency. A teen who can act responsibly should something go wrong might be able to stay safe at home when left alone.
For instance, in the case of a fire outbreak, or your child sustains an injury, would they know how to seek help without panicking?
If not, then they probably aren’t ready to be left alone at home.
- Obeying rules and regulations
Some teens know the rules, laws, and guidelines but they choose not to follow them responsibly or show a blatant disregard for them. It might be unsafe to leave teens that exhibit this behavior unattended overnight.
Since any ground rules you lay will be ignored and won’t be followed through, this could lead to uninvited guests or shady activities.
- Decision Making
Another question to ask is whether your teen shows good decision-making skills. If they’re capable of making the right call in new or tough situations, then they may be mature enough to stay at home by themselves.
Research has shown that teens exhibit a cognitive bias which makes them incapable of considering several options when faced with choices. That’s why it’s crucial to understand your child’s past risky behavior and use it as a clue to what actions they might take in the future.
A series of good choices is an indication that you can rely on them to handle unexpected circumstances carefully and logically.
- Emotional Level
The last factor you can use to gauge the maturity of your teen is their emotional level.
Can they emotionally cope with staying alone without experiencing separation anxiety or giving in to panic attacks?
If your child dreads being alone or fears potential threats such as burglars, then they are not ready to have the whole house to themselves yet.
They may make all the correct choices, but if their emotional state is compromised, the fear will keep them awake all through the night. However, the entire staying at home experience will be an extremely terrifying and negative one for them.
External Factors to Consider
Apart from your child’s maturity level, there are other equally important things you need to look out for before you come to this groundbreaking decision.
How Safe Is Your Neighborhood?
It is very important you carefully consider all the myriad of dangerous events currently happening in your area.
If break-ins are the order of the day, it won’t be wise to leave your teen alone. Even if they’ve proved they can take charge in risky situations.
Is There A Trustworthy Neighbor You Can Count On To Periodically Check Up On Your Teen?
It helps greatly to have an adult close by to check in on your teen at random intervals.
For one, that may curtail any possible excesses of your kid, knowing there’s an extra eye watching out for bad behavior.
Also, that person will ensure your kid is acting as they should. Besides, the person is a nearby source of help if something goes wrong.
Did You Clearly Explain The Rules And Consequences?
Before allowing your teen to be at home alone, you have to CLEARLY make them understand the house rules ahead of time and the consequences of going against them.
You don’t want them thinking there would be no repercussions should they choose to act out.
You should bear in mind that for your teen to take your warnings seriously and not with a pinch of salt, you MUST always follow through on every discipline you issue.
If you’ve rechecked all external factors and your teen aced the above maturity tests and additional vital checks you added, your child may be ready to spend the night alone.
However, if you are still hesitant about the whole overnight issue, you could test the waters by letting your teen have the house to themselves during the day. You can start by slowly extending the hours they are left alone in the house.
Additionally, extend the hours they can stay out at night, if they can responsibly handle all these, they may handle staying overnight really well.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.