When You Have to Leave the Kids Home Alone

All across America, single-parent children come home to an empty house on a daily basis. Once safely inside, most are expected to start their homework, watch a little TV, or even start dinner until Mom or Dad gets home from work. But, at what age are the kids truly ready to be left home alone? Although we all laughed and cheered at the antics of little Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) in "Home Alone 1 & 2," when it comes time to leave our own children home alone, most of us panic. How do we know for certain that he’s ready? Can we trust him to do the right thing in an emergency? Does he feel completely comfortable being in the house alone? The only way we’ll know for certain is to leave him home alone periodically for short intervals. But, before you do, here are a few things you should go over with your child. First and foremost – determine whether or not your child is old enough (emotionally) to stay home alone – if even for a couple of hours. For the most part, children under the age of eleven are too young to leave unattended for more than 15 to 30 minutes during the daytime while Mom or Dad runs an errand.

Find an alternate "baby-sitter." The problem is that most kids, especially little boys, don’t want a baby-sitter around. You might, therefore, hire a neighborhood high school or college student to come in and "tutor" your child. That way, he’s supervised, but technically, not by a baby sitter.

Set up clear and precise rules and regulations – including afternoon chores and telephone time. When the environment is structured and they are given lots of busy work, they’ll be less likely to get into mischief.

Make it clear who is allowed in the house when you are not home . Make it clear that even though their friends are welcome in your home when you are there, they cannot come in and hang out unsupervised.

Post telephone numbers of those they should call in case of emergency. Also include your work number (in a panic they may forget it) and the number of their primary care physician.

Make sure they’re not afraid in the house alone . You know, once daylight savings time ends, it gets dark earlier. Are you absolutely sure that they are comfortable in the house when it’s dark out?

Call often. If you have access to a telephone, call home often. Not every five minutes, of course. But let her feel secure in the knowledge that you’re only a phone call away.

Is she allowed to cook ? If you don’t feel comfortable about her using the stove, leave little pre-prepared foods in the fridge for her to microwave.

Get a dog. If you’re really concerned about leaving them unattended, consider getting a dog. A dog will be there when they arrive home, will require attention (to help keep them busy) and will offer protection. Remember, laws vary from state to state, so prior to leaving your child home alone, contact your local police department to find out what the legal age in your area is for leaving a child home unattended.

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