Host: At what age can children be left home alone after school?
Nancy McBride: Many parents and guardians ask me at what age can I leave my child home alone after school? And there is really no set age. This depends on the child. It depends on their developmental level, and it really depends on whether or not they feel comfortable being home alone. Some kids will feel fine about it. You will set the rules; you will set the guidelines. They know what to do in an emergency; they might be a little more mature. Some kids won t feel comfortable about it, and you as the parent or guardian really need to gauge that, and the best way to find out is to do some practice runs. Before you do it for real, take some short periods of time when your child is home alone and set up some scenarios they would have to respond to, and we actually did this in a new segment where we had three different kids from three different families, who were home alone with their parent s permission. They had all been taught never to open the door, when they were home alone. So, we set a nice looking, under cover sheriff s deputy to the house. His story was, my car broke down, I am your neighbor, can I use your phone? Surprisingly three different neighborhoods, three different kids, all three of them opened the door. Their parents were horrified, because they had all had the conversation with their kids. So this is a situation where you really need to practice, because that person on the other side of the door is not going to be mean or aggressive or nasty, he is going to be somebody who is saying I need help, can you help? I need to get my car fixed, I need to use your phone; these are all things that kids may respond to, because they have been taught to be polite and responsive to adults. So, this is a trick that may work on your child even though you have told them time and time again, do not open the door . So practice with your kids, make sure they get it, please do not scare them, please do not use fear. Just set up simple tests to see what they would do in a particular situation, and then you and your child can discuss it and decide if your child is really ready, really wants to be, and you as the parent or guardian feel comfortable with them being home alone.