As you would with a regular babysitter, you need to establish some basic parameters with your child. How far from the house is she allowed to play? Can she use the computer, TV, and stereo, and for how long? Which friends, if any, are allowed to come over? Is she allowed to cook? Which appliances are safe for her to operate, and which snack foods are allowed? The more details you discuss ahead of time, the fewer problems you are likely to have later.
If you do allow your child to play in the neighborhood, provide her with a cell phone or pager and instruct her to return your calls -- pronto! As a final precaution, you may want to register your child's fingerprints with your local police department. Don't hesitate to let the police know the days and hours your child will be home alone.
Even if things seem to be going well after several weeks, you should check up on the situation periodically. Come home early one day and see what your son or daughter is really up to. Or ask a neighbor to check in occasionally. With good communication and organization, you and your child should achieve home-alone success.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.