July 1, 2009 -- Question: A 7-year-old comes home alone because both parents are working. How should parents make the best of this situation?
Answer: I understand that in difficult economic times, moms and dads may have to work. They may have to work extra jobs; and that in some of those circumstances, children may actually be left alone at home without appropriate adult supervision. I think in this situation a 7-year-old boy -- that's pretty young for that youngster to be at home for any extended period of time.
But if a short period of time is required, it's very important that the parents establish a structure. So that when that youngster comes in the home, he knows where there are adults in the neighborhood or next door -- who can be available to him should he run into trouble.
He should also feel very confident about when his parents are going to return or another adult is going to come and visit. He should probably be kept busy with positive activities during that period of time.
But most importantly the time should be short, there should be a detailed plan about who is thinking about the child and who can respond to the child if the child has any particular needs, and that the exposure to time alone is really as time limited as possible.