The New Latchkey Kids

Home-Alone Safety Tips

  • Check your state's restrictions. The age guidelines vary, though most experts say a child should be at least 12 to be left on his own.
  • Safeguard your home. Lock up alcohol, poisons, and firearms.
  • Review the rules. Talk about what you expect your child to do -- and not do -- and create a schedule for her to follow (such as homework, chores, and then TV). Check in regularly, and consider getting her a cell phone for the walk home.
  • Practice together. Have him stay alone for 30 minutes, then build up to an afternoon. Don't ask if he knows how to lock the door behind him; have him show you. Also role-play different situations and how to handle them (such as if someone on the phone asks where Mommy is).
  • Be prepared. Post important phone numbers on the fridge, quiz her on different scenarios (such as what to do in case of a fire), and ask an adult in the area to be on standby.
  • Stay positive. If you display unease about leaving him alone, he's more likely to be nervous about it too.

Originally published in the December 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

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