Is your child ready to stay home alone?

Published: May. 31, 2016 at 8:34 AM CDT
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Now that school's out for the summer, parents are left trying to figure out who will supervise their kids. If the answer is having them stay home alone, you'll want to consider a number of factors.

Nebraska does not have a legal age that kids are allowed to stay home alone. However, DHHS recommends that no child under the age of 6 should be home alone for any amount of time. They also recommend no child under age 11 should watch a child under the age of 6.

The National Safety Council Nebraska recommends children under 12 never be left home alone for extended periods of time. But, they do acknowledge that it does depend on how responsible your child is.

"Some children are pretty mature and you've left them alone for short periods of time and you feel as thought they can handle it," said Beverly Reicks, CEO of National Safety Council Nebraska. "Maybe there's a support system of neighbors, grandma, aunts, and uncles nearby."

Before you allow your child to stay home alone, there are a number of questions to think about.

For instance, how safe is my neighborhood? Are there others nearby if my child needed help? How comfortable is my child staying home alone? Can they handle an emergency situation? Do they know what to do in a fire?

That's just a starting point. The DHHS link provided has more questions to consider.

And if you're still unsure, the National Safety Council Nebraska has a babysitting class kids. While it mostly prepares kids 11-15 to take care of other children, it also is a great class for kids who will stay home alone.

They'll learn safety basics, CPR, fire safety, what to do when a stranger comes to the door and much more.

The class runs one Saturday a month from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lunch is provided. It's $80 for the class. The next class is on June 25th.

They'll also get booklets of information to take home, so if an emergency does arise they can reference the material.

"We really want to make sure kids leave here with that kind of confidence that they can take measures into their own hands and they can do what's right," Reicks said.

If a parent is looking for a babysitter, Reicks said they need to interview multiple candidates. She suggested not just asking questions, but also asking to see their certificate. And finally, ask them about different emergency situations and have them walk you through how they'd respond.

Reicks also had suggestions about how to keep an eye on children while you're gone. While she said video monitoring may be appropriate for some, she suggested cell phone communication.

"You could set up a routine schedule where they have to check in during the day," she said.

She also suggests parents leave activities for kids to keep them busy throughout the day to keep them out of trouble. When you check in, you can see if they're working on it.

Above all, it comes down to being comfortable and trusting that your child can handle these situations. Keep in mind, if police are called to your home for some reason, they will use the DHHS guidelines to determine if you may be ticketed for child neglect.