Whether you are going to work all day or just running errands, at some point every parent wonders when their child is old enough to be left home alone.
While the legal age varies from state to state and even county to county, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration before you decide if your child is old enough to be left home alone. You will first want to check those requirements, and then determine if your child is mature enough and responsible enough to be home alone.
If your child is of legal age to be home alone, ask yourself the following questions to evaluate whether your child can be safely left home alone:
•Does my child know all pertinent identifying information? Before being left home alone, your child should know his full name, the full names of his parents, his address, phone number, and directions to his house, or at least identifying landmarks. This is particularly important if you live in an area that is off the beaten path or difficult to find. He should know this in case he becomes lost, an emergency occurs, or he needs to direct emergency personnel to your home.
•Does my child know who to contact in case of an emergency? Your child should know how and when to call in the event of an emergency. His parents’ contact information, including work and cell numbers, should be clearly posted for him to access. He should also know how to dial 911 and Poison Control, and know what situations it should be utilized for. In addition, it is very important that your child knows calling 911 is a very serious matter and not for playing with.
•Does my child have adequate knowledge of strangers and how to handle them? Before being capable of staying home alone, your child should know never to answer a door to a stranger, never to tell anyone who calls that his parents are not home, and never to go anywhere with a stranger.
•Does my child know what to do in an emergency? Your child should know what to do and who to call in the event of a fire, injury, attempted breakin or other type of situation.
•Does my child have the emotional maturity to stay home alone? Most laws won’t allow a child younger than eight or nine, depending on the state, to be home alone, but that doesn’t mean the child should besome nine year olds are more mature than some twelve year olds. If your child is constantly getting into things, jumping off things, or doing potentially dangerous things, he or she should not be left alone.
•Does my child want to be left alone? Some children are terrified at the prospect of being left alone. If your child is, make sure you give him the resources to call anyone in case he needs help, and let him know what to do in emergencies without scaring him. Start small, by leaving him alone while you run to the store or to a neighbor’s.
These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself in order to determine if your child is old enough to stay home alone.