Home alone?

School is starting and many of you parents out there have to decide whether or not your kids are ready to be home alone. Thousands of children across Wisconsin come home after school to an empty house. Nationally, nearly seven million children between ages 5 and 14 are left home alone for some period of time each school day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Wisconsin law does not specify an age a child may be left without adult supervision. However, it is the parents’ responsibility to protect and keep their children safe.

Consider the following:

Your child’s age. Generally speaking, children 12 years old and older can babysit or stay home alone if they are responsible and have completed a babysitting class. Does your child feel comfortable being home alone? Does he or she handle loneliness or boredom appropriately? The answers to these questions serve as a guideline to help parents gauge the maturity of their child.

Your neighbors. Do you know them and trust them? Could your child go to them in an emergency? Perhaps he or she feels more comfortable going to a friend’s or neighbor’s home after school rather than being alone.

Safety and security. Talk to your child about safety issues and practice different scenarios. Always have him or her check in with you when he or she arrives home. Make a list of contacts and emergency phone numbers, so your child may call for questions or concerns. Determine whether friends can visit or if your child can play outside while home alone. Be sure your child locks all doors and does not tell callers he or she is home alone. Talk to your child about Internet safety. Personal information should never be shared with strangers online.

If the thought of leaving your child home alone makes you uneasy, your child probably is not ready. There are alternatives to leaving your child home alone. Boys’ and girls’ clubs, schools and parks and recreation groups offer after-school programs. Another alternative is trading care with another parent. You may be able to provide before-school care while they provide after-school care for your child.

For more information about children left home alone or other parenting information, call Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin’s Wausau Family Resource Center at (715) 845-6747.

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