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Old Enough to Stay Home Alone?

aloneThere are few states that have laws stating how old a child must be before he or she can be left at home alone.

Yet, the National SAFEKIDS Campaign states that no child under 12 should be left home alone, no matter how mature they appear to be. They advise:

While 12 years is the earliest age to even consider that a child can stay home alone, each child is different and may not be ready at 12. Once the decision is made to begin allowing a child to stay at home alone the following suggestions can help insure a safe, comfortable experience for parent and child:

  • Practice by letting your child stay at home for brief periods of time
  • Always leave a phone number where you can be contacted
  • Call your child regularly while they are alone
  • Be sure your child understands your expectations about he or she is to use alone time. Review what is and is not permitted, such as:
    • TV viewing
    • Answer the phone
    • Cooking or making a snack
    • Using the computer
    • Entertaining friends
    • Going out or visit friends
  • Make sure your home is safe for your child:
    • Keep medications in a locked cabinet
    • If you have guns, keep them a locked cabinet
    • Correct anything your child could get hurt on
  • Practice correct behavior in emergencies such as:
    • What to do in an emergency
    • What to do if someone were trying to get into the house or apartment
    • What to do in case of a fire
  • Before you make the decision to try letting your child be home alone, ask your child if he or she feels confident and ready to stay home alone. If he or she is hesitant, hire a sitter and revisit being home alone in six or more months.

Sources: National Child Care Information Center, National SAFEKIDS Campaign, Jennifer Wolf, About.com

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