Whether you need to run to the store for 30 minutes or head to work for a few hours, leaving your child home alone can boost his confidence and sense of responsibility, but only if he is ready for the experience.
Suzi McGarvey, an extension associate at the
, cautioned that there is no magical age. "Every child is different," McGarvey said. "Not every child is able to handle the responsibility of staying alone the same." University of Missouri
Parents should consider the recommended minimum-age guidelines established by their state's family support division, a child's maturity level and his decision-making abilities. A 10-year-old in a safe area with strong decision-making abilities, for example, might be more prepared than a 13-year-old who has not shown responsible behavior management. Trust is also another consideration. Has your child shown that he is trustworthy when given freedom?
Parents can try role-playing to test a child's reasoning skills and maturity level. McGarvey recommended staging situations where your child is prompted to open the door to a stranger or to answer the telephone when at home alone. "Don't simply ask your child if she is able to do something -- have her show you," McGarvey said.
If your child is ready, McGarvey suggests establishing clear rules, posting important telephone numbers and teaching your child to ask for help. "Working closely with your child can bring relief and confidence, and can make your child's experience at home satisfying and beneficial to her development."