Most states don't have laws about what specific age a child can be left home alone, but age should not be your only consideration when deciding if your child is ready to be left home unattended. While most 4th or 5th graders are ready to stay home alone for short periods of time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the maturity of your child should also come into play when making the decision. If you decide that your child is ready to be left home alone, sharing safety tips can help set the stage for success.
1. Hide Your Key
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children suggests that if your child is going to be heading home alone, he knows how to carry his house key so that it is hidden and secure. Carrying his house key in an inside pants pocket can assure he holds onto it. Carrying his key in his school bag could pose a potential problem. If he misplaces or drops his school bag, or if someone tries to grab his bag from him, the house key could become lost or stolen.
2. Follow The Rules
Discussing the rules can help your child to be prepared for staying home alone. Sitting down and talking about acceptable and unacceptable behavior will help to establish boundaries for home alone behavior. Setting rules with regards to visitors, how to answer the phone, when to call for help and how to handle emergencies can all help prepare your child for situations that may arise when she is unattended. Following the rules can help keep your child safe when she's home alone.
3. Check-in With Mom or Dad
Checking in by phone at set times can help to keep the lines of communication open and give you and your child peace of mind. If a check-in call is missed, it could be a signal that your child is in trouble, and you should attempt to reach him. While calling your cell phone may seem like a fail-safe plan, your signal strength could be poor or the call could be dropped while your child is trying to reach you. Giving your child a landline number can help to avoid needless worry.
4. Know Your Neighbors
Having a relationship with a few trusted neighbors may help build your child's confidence when she's home alone and provide her with a resource for getting help should the need arise. Having the neighbors' contact information handy, should you be unreachable, could mean the difference between your child getting the help she needs and handling a tough situation on her own. Consider asking a few neighbors that you know well who are normally home when your child will be alone if they can be put on your child's emergency contact list. That way if she has a question or concern and needs quick in person assistance, she has someone to turn to.