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How much structure is enough?

How much structure is enough?

Ah, the ever challenging question…how much structure is too much (or not enough) for your child when you leave them home alone? 

Do you plan out every minute that you’re away? Do you let it be a free for all and have them figure it out themselves? 

Well, honestly, the answer is somewhere in the middle, and always depends on the age of your child, as well. 

Set realistic expectations

We know it’s tempting to schedule your child’s minute-by-minute itinerary when they are home alone. I mean, who doesn’t want their kids accounted for and maybe even doing some helpful tasks around the house? Realistically, though, doing this will set your child up for failure. Despite your best-laid plans, your child is not a robot, and therefore, cannot be programmed like one. 

Figuring out how to strike the right balance between structure and allowing your child some freedom and responsibility is difficult, but so, so crucial. 

Offer guidance

Initially, you need to offer guidance based on your expectations of your child while they are home alone. Be very clear with these expectations. Do you want them to have a certain amount of homework done when you get home? What about tasks around the house? Do they have screen time limits you expect them to follow? What should they do if a stranger comes to the door? 

Lay out these expectations with your child before leaving them home alone. Over time, your child will take more initiative in helping to set their “to-do” list while they’re home alone and they will learn how to be accountable for their words and actions. 

Clear consequences

It’s also important that you explain to your child what the consequences are if they don’t follow your explicit expectations. Make sure the consequence is related to what you’ve asked them to do or take away something they really want to do. For example, if they neglected to put the dishes away and clean their room while they were home alone, then they can’t go to their friend’s house tomorrow. 

It won’t take many of these consequences for them to realize that it’s just easier to do what you’ve asked. It’s important that you don’t overload them with things to do while they’re home alone though so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Structure is important, but there is a balance you must strike to make it effective. 


Learning how to take accountability for their actions is crucial to your child’s success, both while staying home alone, but also once they enter college or the workforce. Set your child up for success with some structured expectations of what they should do while home alone, but also allow your child some freedom to choose…with limits!

A stronger relationship

The best part is that as your child learns that you trust them to stay home alone and complete the tasks you’ve asked them to do, your relationship with them will grow stronger. Oh, and who could forget…some chores will even get done! What could be better than that combination? 

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Should my child answer the door when home alone?

As our kids grow older, we often wonder how much freedom to give them, especially when they’re home alone! I mean what kid doesn’t want the freedom of staying home alone for a few hours? 

And as the parents, after years of needing to find a babysitter, or having to haul our children along with us for errands, having a child who is old enough to stay at home alone for short periods is the best thing since sliced bread! 

Staying home alone allows your child to feel a sense of responsibility and maturity, both essential tools for their growth. But with this freedom comes some anxiety, especially about what to do if a stranger knocks on the door. 

Often our children will want to answer the door either out of curiosity or kindness and parents will often wonder, should their child answer the door while they are home alone? 

Simply put, no, they shouldn’t. 

Staying home alone doesn’t have to be a difficult transition for your family. Set the expectation that from the very first day your child stays home alone, they don’t answer the door for anyone! 

Nope, not even someone who claims to be delivering a pizza! 

We know, we know. What child will say no to that? Some people can be very persistent and convincing, so your child should know that anyone who needs to enter the home will have the necessary tools to do so, like a key or the access code. 

Help protect your child and take away their anxiety about what to do if a stranger comes to the door with our “Home Alone” course.

As they get older, your child can learn (with your explicit instruction) that it’s okay to open the door for some people — like a real pizza delivery person! But until then, encourage your child to keep the doors locked at all times.

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Who you gonna call…?

Who will your kids call if you’re not available by phone? You’d think it would be an easy answer. 

Call grandma.

But, after moving to a new community. No grandma close by. No friends… yet. How do you decide whose number to put down as an emergency contact?

You want to get your kids involved in community activities. You want them to be able to stay home alone. But who should they call if you’re not reachable?

The myth is that you need to know them well before you list them as an emergency contact. The truth is – you only have to know them well enough to believe they could get your children to a safe location until you or a family member were available to pick them up. 

As an introverted mom in a new community, finding those people is easier said than done. 

If you meet people through a club or church. It almost feels like you’re on a hunt. Every interaction is a potential… Are they trustworthy? Do I get any weird vibes when I’m talking to them? Do my children seem comfortable around them? You don’t want to appear desperate but can’t have your kid in soccer without providing an emergency contact.

So, you put down grandma’s number while you search for someone nearby and hope that nothing happens to you that would prompt a call. 

But there is a way to get those emergency contact numbers – even if you don’t have friends and family close by. It’s the same principle you teach your kids. 

Safe strangers. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Youth Leaders
  • Doctors/ Nurses
  • School Volunteers
  • Sport coaches
  • Boys & Girls Club Leaders
  • Swim Instructors

Get acquainted with a few people in these jobs, and voila – you’ve got your pre-screened emergency contact list. When you ask them, briefly explain your situation. And, give them a list of family they could call if something happened to you. Also, note any allergies or medical issues your kids have. Keep it simple. Something they can keep on their phone under your contact information. 

It’s a temporary solution. But in a pinch, it will ease your mind, and you’ll know that your kids will have someone to call in an emergency. And, as you build your network, swap out your temporary emergency contacts for more permanent ones. 


  1. As an introverted mom in a new community, it’s hard to find emergency contacts for your kids. 
  2. Develop social connections with a few trusted strangers.
  3. Explain your situation and ask if they’d be willing to be a temporary emergency contact. 
  4. Give them contact info for friends/family and any critical issues they should know about your kids. 
  5. Let them know when you’ve found a permanent emergency contact.

What other suggestions do you have for parents looking for emergency contacts? What has worked for you?

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Finding after-school care… impossible!

Finding after-school care was a nightmare…

And my kids were technically old enough to stay home alone.

But I was worried.

Worried that they’d fight the entire time.

That they’d not get their homework and chores done.

That something would happen…

And I wouldn’t be there to fix it.

But, I was teaching the home alone course. And knew that the things I was teaching other kids would help mine too.

They all took the course and loved it! (Even with mom as a teacher!)

And we started developing micro-routines for them to follow while I was working.

They gained confidence (fought less, got their homework done, and learned how to handle situations on their own.)

I had peace of mind. 

Now that they’re older, those routines still keep us on track. 

They help the household run smoother…

Whether I’m home – or not. 

I’ve taught hundreds of kids those same confidence building skills. 

I’d like to invite you to enroll your child in the Stay Safe! course.

It’s the first step to a safer and more confident home alone experience.