Most parents have to figure out what their children are going to do for those few hours after they get home from school but the adults aren't yet home from work. Hiring a babysitter can be cumbersome and expensive. If the children are old enough, it is easier to let them manage themselves for those couple of hours. Many states have laws dictating how old is "old enough" for children to stay home alone, but New Mexico is not one of them.
Though the state of New Mexico may not have laws dictating when children can be left alone, the city of Albuquerque does. The city ordinance says that children who are 10 or younger cannot be left home alone for any amount of time. Though children older than 10 can be left home alone, city officials caution parents to evaluate their own children's maturity when making the decision, rather than relying on their age alone.
Determining When Your Child is Ready
There are many ways you can determine whether your child is ready to be left home alone or not. The city of Albuquerque advises parents to make sure that their children are able to understand and follow rules before they are left home alone. Other factors to consider include whether your child can be trusted to go home right after school, can easily operate the telephone and locks and will not be afraid to be home alone. As a parent, you know your child best. If you don't feel your child is ready, he probably isn't.
Securing Your Home
Before you consider leaving your child home alone, you should make sure your house has been secured. Potentially dangerous items like guns, power tools and harsh chemicals should be locked up and placed out of reach. All the doors and windows should have working locks, and your child should have his own key. A working telephone should be available, and emergency numbers should be clearly posted. Take the time to practice making an emergency phone call with your child, including sharing your address and directions to your home. If you don't have an alarm system, consider getting one. If you do have an alarm system, make sure your child knows how to operate it properly.
Other Safety Tips
Even if children are old enough to stay home alone, they may not know how to respond appropriately in every situation they may encounter. Giving them the right information and tools can help make sure they are safe when you are not there. Go over safety rules for the house, including when friends are allowed over or when your children can leave the house. Make sure your children know never to allow a stranger into the house and never to let others know that they are home alone. Set up a system in which your children check in with a neighbor or call you when they get home, and call them often to make sure that there are no problems.