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One of the most difficult decisions a parent must make is determining when it is safe to leave a child at home alone. A child may feel scared or lonely being home by himself. While it's best not to leave your child by himself, child care experts agree that times will occur when a parent must leave a child at home alone for a short period of time. The following are methods of deciding if your child is ready to stay home alone:

  • Judge the level of your child's maturity. Logic, truthfulness, reason and dependability are signs that a child may be ready to stay home alone for a few hours. The honesty and trust your child has with you also can be a determining factor.
  • To prepare the child, leave him alone for a short time. Each time, leave for longer periods. This will help the child to trust in his own capabilities when he is by himself
  • Play act with your child any possible situations that could occur (such as a stranger at the door or a minor injury). Calm, clear discussions will allow the child to voice any fears he may have while allowing you to give the child important safety information. Remind your child that it's okay to be cautious.
  • Leave several telephone numbers for the child in case of emergencies, such as where you can be reached, the number of the fire and police department and the number of a trusted neighbor or adult friend. Post these numbers by the phone and make sure your child is aware of them
  • Make sure the child knows how to handle these situations: how to answer the phone, what to do if he finds the door open or a window broke upon returning home and how to apply first aid for small cuts or burns.