How to know child is old enough to be home alone

Published On: Aug 01 2012 02:34:22 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

The movie "Home Alone" may be a great family flick, but when it comes to real life, leaving your children home alone is no laughing matter.

Making sure your child is ready to look after the house is a big step. Here is how to protect your children when you are away from them.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends 11 to 12 years old is a good age for children to start staying home alone.

Begin by asking your child if he or she is ready.  Take note of not only the oldest child's maturity level, but just how rambunctious the younger kids are.  If any of them have impulse control issues, you might want to think twice.

Debbie Marley with the Center for Childhood Injury Prevention says a good start for all the kids could be taking babysitting courses.

"That will give them the confidence they need to be in charge, and explain to them how to handle situations that may come up that may be an emergency," said Marley.

Dr. Adiaha Franklin, a developmental specialist at Texas Children's Hospital, said having a game plan can be really helpful, especially when it comes to answering the phone.

"It is very important to give the child a script as to what to say and what not to say if a parent is not available. 'May I take a message? My mother is not able to come to the phone right now,' rather than saying no one is at home right now," said Dr. Franklin.

For older children, it is all about social media. It is important to make them aware of what not to post.

"It is extremely important that children not advertise they are alone at home or the dates they are going to be out of town because that is a wonderful opportunity for predators to know what is going on," said Dr. Franklin.

Leaving your child home always comes with a sense of danger. Make sure to lock up adult beverages and firearms.