Home Alone, Safely

How to prepare your child.
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All moms look forward to the day when they can skip the hassle -- and expense -- of finding someone to mind the kids when they're away. How do you know if your child is ready to stay home solo? Here, the questions to ask:

1. Is he old enough?

Though experts hesitate to give an age at which children are old enough to stay home alone, most agree that under 11 or 12 is too young. (In your state, leaving a younger child unsupervised may also be illegal.) But even children who are technically old enough may not be ready. For instance, a child who can't be counted on to complete chores or solve small problems probably isn't.

2. Is he emergency prepared?

Marion C. Hyson, a professor of individual and family studies at the University of Delaware, in Newark, suggests rehearsing "what-if" scenarios before leaving a child unsupervised. Make sure he knows what to do if a stranger comes to the door or if there's a power outage, etc.

3. Does he know the rules?

It's a good idea to set firm rules to be adhered to when you're away. Examples: Don't tie up the phone. Don't use the stove or the microwave. Don't leave home without asking first.

4. Can he reach you?

It's important that you and your child are able to contact each other while you're away. In the event you'll be completely out of touch, arrange to have another adult on call.


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