Most schools let out before most jobs do. That means for millions of families, after-school day care is a problem. Some families allow their children to be "latchkey" kids. In other words, they are home alone after school. Is this approach right for your child?

The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that no child under the age of ten should be left alone at home after school. Even after that age, say experts, many children are not ready to care for themselves.

How can you tell whether your child is ready to stay home alone? Here is a checklist to consider. Can your child:

  • Be trusted to go straight home everyday after school is out?
  • Take care of himself without fear of injury from household tools and equipment?
  • Unlock the door easily and remember to lock it again once insideêwithout risk of losing the keys?
  • Use appliances like the stove safely and operate the furnace and any extra heaters?
  • Understand and follow important rules you have agreed upon?
  • Stay alone without being too afraid or lonely?
  • Handle unexpected situations with poise, including accidents, visitors, a power failure?
  • Use the telephone with confidenceêwell enough to use it in an emergency and to take telephone messages?
  • Use a pay phone or a neighbor's phone in an emergency?
  • Follow a list of instructions you leave for him daily?

If you can honestly say "yes" to all these questions, you may want to give self-care a try. If some answers are "no," you should find ways to provide adult care for your child.

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