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Publication #FAR0011

Establishing Rules for Children In Self-Care1

Diana Converse2

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I always thought that once my kids were teenagers it would be easier to leave them home alone in the afternoons, evenings, and on the weekends. However, while I've been fortunate to have great kids, I still can't help but worry about them when they're on their own. (My husband says it's a "mom thing.") Still, I have to let them go. One thing experts tell us is important in making that leap is to establish rules with your children.

When allowing your children to be on their own at home, you should work together to create reasonable rules for when they're alone. Having your children help develop the rules will give them greater ownership of themselves. They'll be more likely to remember and follow the rules. As you make the rules, consider the following:

Decide if friends will be allowed to come to your home and, if so, which friends and how many at a time. Decide where your child is allowed to go, such as a friend's house, the library, a park, or a recreation center. Establish rules for telephone, television, and Internet use.

Another hurdle they'll have to make on their own is dealing with their siblings. Each child needs to understand and follow the rules. Make it clear if an older sibling is to be in charge of a younger brother or sister, or if the children are to be responsible for themselves. They need to understand how you expect them to resolve conflicts or report problems. Give special attention to this situation to ensure power struggles don't emerge. Certainly I'm sure my kids never had that issue... sure.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences ,and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR0011, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 071 and published December 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Diana Converse, Extension agent III, Hillsborough County, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.