From Newark Police
Many parents must choose between leaving their children home alone during the day while they are at work or busy with other commitments, or finding alternative care. Parents often worry when their children are home alone, but there are precautions they can take to ease their worries and help protect their children when they're not around.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO:
Stay in Touch
Call children throughout the day to ask how they are and what they are doing. Ask children to check in before they leave the house and to call again when they return.
Keep Kids Connected
Post important numbers by the telephone, including parent's work and cell phone, the doctor's office, and a neighbor or a nearby relative who can help children quickly if they need it.
Practice What To Do In An Emergency
Teach children how to dial 911 and when to do it. Ask questions like "If someone is trying to get in the house, what should you do?" "If you get hurt, what should you do?" and "If you want to play at a friend's house, what should you do?" Set firm rules. Make clear what children are allowed to do and what they aren't allowed to do. Can they use the Internet when home alone? Can they invite a friend over? Can they invite several friends over?
Make Sure Your Children Are Ready
All children mature differently, so there is no precise age when they are ready to stay home alone. This makes the decision to leave children alone even harder for parents. In general, it's not a good idea to leave kids younger than 10 years old home alone. Every child is different, but at that age, most kids don't have the maturity and skills to respond to an emergency if they're alone. There are no hard and fast rules or guarantees that when children reach a certain age they will be ready. However, there are questions parents can ask themselves to help determine if their children are ready.
Can your children:
- Be trusted to go straight home after school or after playing at a neighbor's house?
- Easily use the telephone, locks, and kitchen appliances?
- Follow rules and instructions well?
- Handle unexpected situations without panicking?
- Stay home alone without being afraid?
- Say their full name, address, and telephone number?
If you feel comfortable leaving your children home alone and feel that they are ready, discuss it with them and start practicing what they should and shouldn't do. Role play different scenarios to prepare them for anything that might happen when they are home alone.