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Determining When Your Child is Ready to Be Home Alone

It’s summer vacation—a time that kids look forward to, but many parents dread. That’s because they have to work, and determining where a child will go when a parent isn’t home can be difficult. But when children reach a certain age, they might be able to start taking care of themselves. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky reports on how to determine when a child is ready to stay home alone…

Many kids spend summers in a variety of daycare situations—some go to day camps while others attend summer school and other programs. Some kids, however, stay home and take care of themselves during the summer.It can be difficult to make the decision to let a child stay home alone. Melissa Bowers, a registered nurse with the CoxHealth Women’s Center, says many parents start thinking about letting their kids stay home alone when they’re between 9 and 12-years-old. She says there are signs to let you know if your child is ready…

"They're following their rules at home. Maybe the parent is going to the store, and they leave them home and they tell them certain chores they're supposed to do, and they come home and all those chores are done. A lot of kids will come to you and say, 'you know, I'm really ready to stay at home. Can't we do a trial run?' And I think if they're asking, I think they're starting to be more mature and ready to do that."

Once you’ve made the decision to allow your child to stay home alone, you need to take steps to make sure they stay out of trouble. Set clear rules and consequences for not obeying those rules. And Bowers says there are ways parents can make sure the rules are being followed…

"There's online things that you can check on to see if they've been online when they're not supposed to, and you can always check your phone records to make sure they haven't been calling somebody they're not supposed to."

You also need to make sure your children know how to stay safe. If you’d like extra help determining if your child is ready to stay home alone and preparing them for that, there’s a free class you and your child can take. It’s called “In Charge at Home…”

"We pretty much go through a question and answer thing with the kids, kind of put them through a little test, and the parents can go through that test, too, and see if the kids are ready. We'll talk about first aid. We'll talk about home cooking safety, if they should be using the stove or not. We'll talk about healthy snacks for them to make and give them activities to do while they're home alone."

The next "In Charge at Home" class will be offered August 17th. To find out more, call 269-INFO.