• Age Guidelines for Leaving Kids Home Alone (Are You Ready, Mom?)

    Parents should raise kids to be independent. But at what age can you safely and confidently leave them on their own?
    by Rachel Perez .
  • Age Guidelines for Leaving Kids Home Alone (Are You Ready, Mom?)
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  • The controversial video of a young child left alone in a parked car left many enraged. Netizens who commented on the footage asked collectively: Why would a parent do such a thing to her child who is barely 2 years old? Human decency and common sense tell us that you never leave a child unattended — not in the car, pool, or at the park. Never. 

    We do want, however, to raise our children to be independent, and it does mean leaving your child on his own at some point. So at what age can you start trying to see if your child can handle himself home alone? 

    Children age 7 and below should never be left alone at home at all.
    Babies benefit a lot from playing alone, as long as their play area, crib or playpen is safe. If a baby is taking a nap, make sure the sleeping area is safe. The bed should have a firm mattress with a fitted sheet and without pillows or blankets. Baby monitors can be a reassuring tool at this age. 

    Toddlers and preschoolers love to explore their surroundings. Children this age are naturally curious and regularly like to test "what would happen if I do this." We need to let go of them to have this learning experience. Making your h0me "child-proof" can be a happy solution, but you or a caregiver still needs to be within an arm's length from your child. You should still be able to see or hear what's happening and spring into action when needed. 

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    Children ages 8 to 12 are capable of being left alone for no more than an hour and half.
    "In general, most children can be left alone for an hour or so between 8 to 10 years of age," Dr. Tasha Howe, assistant professor of psychology at Humboldt State University," told Fatherly. If a grade-schooler is left alone at home, say, after school, you need to set strict rules. Have them call you the moment they get home, and let them follow a schedule for homework, chores, snacks, or TV time. 

    Of course, this is not a clear-cut rule. Each child is different, and you can better assess and gauge your child's maturity. Ask these questions to help you evaluate: Can your child follow instructions? Does he support the rules even if you're not around? Are there other kids in the house and how old? Does he need special care or have special needs?

    Kids in this age range, however, are not mature enough to handle an emergency if one arises, according to the U.K.'s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). So ask these fundamental safety questions: How safe and secure your home? How safe is your neighborhood? How long you'll be gone? How much time would it take you to arrive home in case of an emergency? 

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    In the Philippines, anyone below 18 years old is a considered a minor or a child. Parents should exercise caution when deciding to leave teenagers at home unsupervised.

    You can prep your child, no matter what age, on what to do in case he needs to be on his own for some reason. Here are some of the things you should consider:

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    • Make sure you go over the rules with your child. Set check-in times. 
    • Have your contact and other emergency contacts in full display near the phone. Put all the numbers on speed dial on his mobile phone if he is allowed to have one. 
    • Run realistic scenarios with your child. What should they do if someone calls or rings the doorbell?
    • Walk through with your child some of the necessary emergency procedure. What should he do in case of fire or earthquake?
    • Knowing basic first-aid and CPR is always a good idea.

    We recommend starting it slowly. Start with quick trial runs and always be prepared for contingencies like how you can get home as soon as possible in case you are needed. 

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