Snow days: Is your child ready to be left alone?
Both the Mattoon and Georgetown School Districts canceled classes Friday due to weather. With plenty of cold days ahead, what do you do as a parent if you’re not able to stay home with your child?
When deciding if your child is independent enough to stay home alone, child care experts said it’s very much on a case-by-case basis.
Illinois Department of Child and Family Services said they typically don’t recommend leaving children under 14-years-old home alone.
When making this call, experts said the most important thing is making sure your child knows what to do in an emergency.
"They need to be able to use the phone appropriately, they need to know their address,” said Dottie Squire with Child Care Resource Services. “They need to be able to call you on your cell phone. So they need to be able to talk to adults on the phone because if there was an emergency they'd have to be able to handle that."
One test you can try is leaving them alone for short periods of time at first. For example, run an errand to the store and see how your child does. Then you can gradually try longer periods of time.
Certain personality traits can also be a good indicator.
"If your child is still getting up at night and is fearful?” Squire said. “All those personality traits really need to be taken into consideration before you decide to leave them at home. Thinking about sibling relationships, if they got into a fight what would happen? Do they know how to call 911?"
If you do decide to leave kids at home, make sure they have a list of things they can do to stay busy for the day. This might include things like simple chores, homework, or playing games.
If you aren't able to leave your child alone, one place you can take them is the Savoy Recreation Renter.
“You’ve seen the movie Home Alone,” recreation center director Lexi Hartman said. “Enough said."
Kids club services are offered from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. days when area schools are canceled. You don’t have to live in Savoy to use the service.
For Savoy residents and recreation center members, the cost is $30 and for non-members, the cost is $39 per day. All you need to do is drop your child off with a lunch and tennis shoes. The center will provide supervision, games, and snacks throughout the day.
"We'll do crafts and games and come into this nice gym and play all kinds of cool dodgeball games and everything else that the kids love,” Hartman said.
You can also check with your local recreation centers to see if they offer anything similar. You may also be able to drop your child off at a local YMCA, depending on the location’s age restrictions.
Whatever you end up doing, you need to have a plan in place well in advance of school getting called off.
"Be it friends, other kids in the class, their classmates' parents maybe that stay home; Be resourceful and get all that information before the event happens,” Squire said.
For more information on leaving your child alone, you can view tips from DCFS here.
For checklists that can help you identify whether or not your child is ready to be left alone, you can visit the Child Care Resource Service website.
They can also provide you with a list of potential babysitters, however, they recommend you interview them ahead of needing to use them.