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Leaving the kids home alone

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Wondering when you can finally stop paying a babysitter and leave the kids home alone?


Even if you think your child is mature enough, make sure you are familiar with the state law before you consider leaving the brood home alone.

Although many states don’t have laws on this topic, Maryland does. According to Anne Arundel County Child Protective Services, a child must be at least 8 years old to be left home alone. And a sibling must be at least 13 years old to watch a brother or sister under the age of 8, the law states.

Given these parameters, it can still difficult to decide if your children are ready to be left alone.

“Every parent eventually faces the decision to leave their child home alone for the first time. Whether they are just running to the store for a few minutes or working during after-school hours, parents need to be sure their children have the skills and maturity to handle the situation safely,” the Child Welfare Information Gateway of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services explains on it’s website.

According to the site, there is no agreed-upon age when all children are able to stay home alone safely. Because children mature at different rates, age should not be the sole determinant. Consider the following questions:

• Is your child physically and mentally able to care for him- or herself?

• Does your child obey rules and make good decisions?

• Does your child feel comfortable or fearful about being home alone?

The website also offers the following tips for parents:

• Have a trial period. Leave the child home alone for a short time while staying close to home. This is a good way to see how he or she will manage.

• Role play. Act out possible situations to help your child learn what to do.

• Establish rules. Make sure your child knows what is (and is not) allowed when you are not home. Some experts suggest making a list of chores or other tasks to keep children busy while you are gone.

• Check in. Call your child while you are away to see how it’s going, or have a trusted neighbor or friend check in.

• Talk about it. Encourage your child to share his or her feelings with you about staying home alone.

• Don’t overdo it. Even a mature, responsible child shouldn’t be home alone too much. Consider other options, such as programs offered by schools, community centers, youth organizations, or churches, to help keep your child busy and involved.

For more information visit childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/homealone.cfm

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