My son’s friend is left home alone constantly

Your Life
Dr. Cathleen McGreal
April, 2015

Q: My son’s close friend is in a household where the parents are rarely home. He just seems very lonely, and is over at our house all the time. Is there a way for us to “parent” him without usurping his own parents’ roles? 

A: As a child I wasn’t too impressed by the fact that my friend’s parents played in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. It seemed sad to me that my friend couldn’t interact with them when they practiced in their home studio. But she was welcomed at my house, and after their practice her parents were warm and responsive. It sounds as if your son’s friend may have a more chronic loneliness.  

 Is the child mature enough to be left home alone? The chronological age when a child can be left home alone varies by state. Lack of supervision and chronic loneliness may be indicators of physical neglect. Call Children’s Protective Services to share your concerns.

 Are there activities that both families could enjoy? Interacting with the other parents will help you see their family life through a different lens. Perhaps they are away caring for an ill family member. You may discover ways to support them through a difficult time. 

 The more the merrier – does it fit your family? Rather than a uni-directional approach in which you nurture your son’s friend, the relationship needs to benefit everyone. Try teaching “homeowner” skills, such as turning off the water if a toilet overflows. Your son will become handy and his friend will know how to respond when alone.   

Keep your son’s friend in your prayers; pray Psalm 147:3.