It was funny when it happened to Macaulay Culkin, but being left home alone is often no laughing matter for a child. And with many families struggling in this tight economy, more and more kids are being left to fend for themselves while their parents are out earning a living.
John Harrell, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Family Services, says the economy is to blame for the uptick they’ve seen in the number of children being left home without adult supervision. While he encourages parents to try to make other arrangements for their children, he acknowledges that for many families, this just isn’t possible. In that case, he offers some guidelines and suggestions to ensure that the kids are alright:
- In general, Harrell says that a child under the age of 13 should never be left alone to care for younger siblings.
- Rather than basing your decision on whether or not your child is old enough to stay home alone on his or her age, consider maturity level instead. Not all 13-year-olds are created equal and some may be ready to handle the responsibility while others aren’t.
- Go over any conceivable emergency situation that might arise and make sure your child knows how to handle it. Consider what to do if there’s a fire, a water leak or injury. Make sure your child knows how and when to dial 911 and keep the phone numbers of trusted neighbors and nearby friends on hand.
- Make sure your child fully appreciates the danger of opening the door to a stranger. Make it clear that it should never be done under any circumstance.
For a parent, leaving a child home alone can be a stressful and scary proposition. Harrell recommends networking to find other parents who, while they may be in the same boat, might have different schedules. Taking turns watching each other’s children is a far better solution than leaving them home alone.
Image: s herman/Flickr
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