houseAngelina Scisco's mother got a phone call she never expected from her daughter last Friday afternoon. The teen called, shaken, to tell her that there was a burglar in their home stealing things and she was hiding inside the closet. Frightened, the mother alerted police, who descended upon their Florida home and captured 47-year-old William Wilson -- who just recently got out of prison this past November after serving 20 years for armed burglary.

Wow. Just wow. Angelina's quick thinking to run to the closet and shut herself inside may have saved her life. Who KNOWS what he would have done to her, especially considering his criminal record.

With that said, I can only imagine what was going through the mother's head when she heard her daughter's voice on the other end of the line. Whatever the reason may be, Angelina was home alone. I'm sure in that moment she wondered: Should I have allowed that to happen?

The question comes up: What is the right age to leave your child home alone?

At the polar extremes, the answer is logical. Obviously you can't leave a 6- or 7-year-old home alone -- but a 15-year-old? Most likely. The confusion generally strikes at the ages where children start to become independent. I remember when I was first left home alone. It was after I was allowed to go to the mall with my friends "alone." The catch? Although I was allowed to be home, it was never for longer than a few hours.

Obviously, each teen and scenario is different. There are a few important questions you can ask yourself when making the difficult decision:

  • Think about the neighborhood you live in. Is it safe?
  • Is your teen a good decision maker? Are they responsible and do they listen to your directions?
  • Can they take care of themselves? If they get a cut, are they calm enough to handle it? If something falls and breaks, do they know the right way to take care of it?
  • Do they know everything about your home they will need to know? Not to turn on certain electrical appliances, correct address and phone number, how to arm and disarm a house alarm (if you have one), etc.?

Of course, there are endless questions you can ask. And at the end of the day, if you're still a little uneasy, the administration for Children and Families suggests attempting a trial period. This way you can see how your kid will act and handle the responsibility.

Lucky for Angelina and her family, she was OK. While her mother may wonder if she made a mistake, it's clear Angelina was prepared to be there solo. Most importantly: she remained calm enough to protect herself.

Do you leave your children home alone? What rules do you follow in your household?

 

Image via alex.shultz/Flickr