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Safty Pro

Protecting Your Children at Home

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05/01/2009 - Got kids? If so, you probably will (or have) asked: "When is it safe to leave my child home alone?" Unlike the movie, "Home Alone," most of our 8-year-olds won't be able to defend themselves in an otherwise empty house. And being the good parents that we are, we also don't want to experience the 'chafed wrist syndrome' from being hauled away in handcuffs and charged with neglect while attempting to put food on the table.

The answer varies from child to child; generally no child under the age of 10 should be alone at home. Hard to believe that 12-year-olds are often considered old enough to baby-sit in many states. It is my opinion that children under 12 should have someone to come home to – whether it is their own home or a neighbor's home. Unless, of course, there is no adult supervision in the neighbor's home. Two children of the same age with no adult can lead to some interesting opportunities that you may not want to experience. You don't want to greet the city's finest – police or fire personnel – on what is left of your front porch when you get home.

So for the sanity of both you and your child, ask yourself these questions. Is my child afraid or apprehensive about being home alone? You don't want to create a basket case from a mental breakdown brought on by fear. Is your child able and knowledgeable on calling 9-1-1 in an emergency? Can your child provide name, address, and explain the problem to the dispatcher? Does your child have enough maturity to follow instructions when alone and, can you trust your child to follow them?

These are but a few important questions you need to have resolved before vacating the house with no one at home but your child(ren). You may want to 'break in' your child by providing short time frames at home alone and checking in with you by calling your cell phone. For example, making a milk run at the store can provide 15-20 minutes of alone time while still close enough to get home quickly, if needed. As you and your child's comfort level increases, you can gradually increase your time out of the house.

If your child is at home in an empty house to start with – home while you are at work, for example – have your child call you as soon as he gets up or periodically check in. If you are comfortable doing so, work something out with a neighbor so your child can go there in an emergency.

Finally, consider having your child take a home safety course through the police department, local hospital, YMCA, or similar group. That course will cover details such as locking the door once inside, not answering the phone or the door, and other important information.

Parenting is tough. Keeping your kids safe is tough, especially if you can't be there. Prepare them the best that you can so they can be safe at home.

Randy DeVaul (safetypro@roadrunner.com) is an internationally published writher/author and the creator of Safe At Home (www.safeathomeonline.com), focusing on "protecting you and yours in and from your home." Comments welcome.

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