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When to allow your child to stay home alone for the first time can be a daunting decision for many parents. Is my child ready to handle an emergency? Will he or she be able to handle the responsibility of staying home alone? What happens if someone comes to the door?

These questions ... and more ... are just some of what parents ask themselves before determining if the time is right. Clearly, it's not something that is taken lightly.

In this Forever 39 podcast, we discuss what ages we were when we first got to stay at home alone. And to get a parental perspective, we invited New Jersey 101.5 news anchor and mother Jen Ursillo to the program.

So how do you know when the time is right to leave little Johnny home alone for the first time?

Well, some states actually have laws on the books that specify at what age a child can be left home alone, according to FindLaw. New Jersey is not one of those states, but Safe Kids Worldwide indicates that children age 11 or 12 are generally ready to be left alone. The group stresses though that a lot depends on the child. For example, some kids at age 14 still aren't mature enough to stay home alone, especially if they are prone to impulsive behavior and acts. The bottom line for parents — know your kids!

Another sign that a child is ready to stay home alone for the first time is they ask to. If a child shows interest in wanting to stay home alone, that means they're probably ready to handle the responsibility of being home alone.

Once you make the decision that it's okay to start leaving little Johnny home alone for a few hours, now it's time to outline the rules. According to New Jersey Family, parents should outline the house rules and prepare and review a list of all emergency contact information.

Another tip from New Jersey Family is to start slow  — don't leave little Johnny home alone for the first time for several hours. Instead, start off by leaving your child alone while you run a quick errand at your local supermarket or visit the neighbor for a cup of tea. Once the child proves that he or she can handle being in the house alone, parents can gradually increase the time spent alone.

No matter what age your child is ready to be in the house alone, one thing is for sure ... staying home alone is a great way for all children to gain confidence and independence.

Also from this week's Forever 39 podcast — Why charging guests to attend parties is NEVER okay. PLUS: Why it's impossible to leave New Jersey behind. Click on the podcast player above to hear the entire episode. Share your thoughts on all of them below, on Twitter, on Facebook or at

— Annette and Megan, Forever 39

Join us for next week’s podcast when we chat about coping skills in today's kids, being a therapist to your friend, and adulting.

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