Saskatchewan

Regina YMCA home alone class growing in popularity

A Regina YMCA course is helping parents give their children a little more independence.

Prepares kids for emergency situations and eases parents minds.

Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin in the film Home Alone, was eight years old when he was left behind by his family. (20th Century Fox)

A Regina YMCA course is helping parents give their children a little more independence.

A recent B.C. Supreme Court Case ruled an eight year old is too young to stay home alone after school. The case was in court because a social worker did not agree with a Terrace, B.C., mother leaving her son unsupervised from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

In court, the social worker testified that children under the age of 10 cannot be left alone because they lack the cognitive ability.

John-Paul Boyd, executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, said the case does not set a minimum age for leaving a child at home, the judge simply upheld the social worker's decision. The mother must now find supervision for her son.

"When it comes to the decision: Is a child able to stay on his or her own? That seems to me, to be a call that a parent would make, rather than the state, because as the parent you're making the decision, 'Is my child mature enough to stay at home?'" said Boyd.

Regardless of age, many parents may be nervous about leaving their child on their own.

 "I think a lot of parents are hesitant at first to have their kids stay home alone. It's scary both for the children and the parents," said Christal Himmelspeck, co-director of school-based programs at the YMCA in Regina.

Home Alone Class

To help ease the nerves of children and parents, the YMCA offers a Home Alone Preparation Course. The two-day class is offered at the downtown and northwest locations.The program is open to children 10 and older, but the YMCA has made exceptions.

"We have accepted nine-year-olds in the past. If parents think they are mature enough and responsible enough by all means they can sign up," said Himmelspeck.

Students make a contract with their parents. They discuss how long they are comfortable staying at home and at what times of the day. The course also teaches children how to handle a variety of situations that might arise while they're home alone. Kids are also given paper keys to test their responsibility.

"They do floor plans of their homes, we go over fire safety. We do role playing of various scenarios that could happen when you're home alone. For example, if a pipe breaks or the roof starts leaking," Himmelspeck said.

"We do role playing on what to say when answering the phone or door, if you're allowed to. What not to say. If you're coming home from school, nearing the home and you find that the door is open or a window has been broken or if a car is in the driveway you don't recognize."

The class is growing in popularity. Classes this year filled up quickly and many children were placed on a wait list. Himmelspeck has also traveled to Bethune and Lumsden, in rural Saskatchewan, to teach the course. 

"I ask in beginning of the course 'How do you feel about staying home alone?' Most of them are very wary and nervous. At the end of the course we ask and they are excited to stay home alone."

Once they pass the course, students get a booklet of information to take with them and a certificate. The next session will be in November.

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