Saturday, January 1, 2011

Staying Home Alone

My son is now 12 years old & has just recently asked if he could stay home while I went grocery shopping & doing errands close to our neighborhood.   I felt like he was ready to try it...but was I?  Also, I didn't know the laws & what the legalities were for leaving children home alone in my area.
So I researched & came up with this information:   According to the National Child Care Information Center, only Maryland and Illinois have specific laws stipulating the age at which a child can be left home alone.

However, the National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left home alone.  I have to agree with this...I never felt comfortable leaving him home when he was 11.  Also, I didn't feel he was ready emotionally to handle being alone.  

Hear are some guidelines to follow in helping you to determine if your child is ready:

•Consider your child's age and maturity level. For example, if your child tends to be impulsive, you should wait until he or she is older than 12.

•Begin with several "dry runs" where you leave your child home alone for short periods of time.  I did this by doing a quick run to the grocery for just a few items & a stop at the post office...less than 1 hour.

•Leave a phone number where you can be reached. If possible, provide a land line in addition to your cell phone number, just in case your company's service is disrupted for any reason.

•Call home to check on your child.   I called him when I arrived at each destination & then when I was on my way home.

•If possible, make arrangements for your child to check in with you, or with a relative or neighbor, while you are out.  I am close with my neighbor, so I called her to let her know that I was leaving my son home alone.  That way she could keep an eye out for any unusual activity in the neighborhood.   I also told him to run to her house for an emergency, if need be.

•Thoroughly prepare your child for staying home alone. Consider using a book, such as Dottie Raymer's Staying Home Alone, to discuss what it means to make safe choices.

•Be specific in discussing your expectations and how you would like your child to use his or her time. For example:

•Is the TV allowed?

•If so, are there any channels that are off-limits?

•Do you want your child to answer the phone?

•Should homework be completed before you arrive?

•May your child use the computer?

•Can your child have friends over while you're not at home?

•Can he or she go to other friends' houses?

•Make sure your home is childproof. For example:

•Are medications kept in a locked cabinet?

•Are there firearms in the home?

•If so, are they in a locked cabinet and/or do they have child safety locks?

•What could your child potentially get into that might cause harm?

•Practice handling emergencies. For example:

•What would you do in an emergency?

•What if someone were trying to get into the house?

•What would you do if there were a fire?

•Ask your child if he or she feels confident and ready to stay home alone. If he or she is hesitant, hire a babysitter and reconsider this issue in six months.

(Source of information provided by )

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