Home Alone: When are Your Kids Ready?

The Flynns are always moving. Val and Mark have three daughters who go to three different schools: The oldest is 14, Heather is 12 and Alex is in the fifth-grade.

Val is a superhero of sorts, but hasn't been able to clone herself, so sometimes one of the girls is home alone.

Family therapist Jessica Assard-Wu said that as long as both the parent and the child are in sync with feeling ready to do it, it's a good idea to try. It's a positive step developmentally for most pre-teens, Assard-Wu said.

The Flynn's' eldest daughter was their test case.

"She was actually the oldest of the three, age-wise before we left her alone, which I think is fairly typical," Val Flynn said. "The first one has to break the parents in a little bit. The age of cell phones has certainly helped because if they need something it's easy to get a hold of us."

Heather took the longest to buy into the concept. 

"I was a little bit uncomfortable kind of, but I don't really care any more. Sometimes I wake up on the weekends and nobody's home and I just go on the computer and talk to people," Heather said.

Few states have laws that dictate a minimum age at which a child can be left home alone. In Maryland, it's 8 years old. Connecticut has no law, but the Department of Children and Families recommends a child is 12 before they're left alone.

"It's going to depend primarily on the child, so you can have a child that's chronologically 12, but still isn't prepared to be home by themselves," Assard-Wu said.

Once they are, the American Academy Of Pediatrics recommends you establish some rules about answering the door and phone and cooking independently. Also, post important phone numbers on the refrigerator, teach kids basic first aid and remind them not to tell any callers they're home alone.

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