Parents wrestle with how old a child should be before he's old enough to be left home alone. In the 1990's film "Home Alone," above, a young child was accidently left behind when his family went on a trip.

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Parents frequently struggle with the appropriate age to leave their children home alone. Nowadays, leaving a child unsupervised for a time may be a necessity, not just a convenience.

New Jersey law does not provide much guidance. According to the Bergen County Department of Human Services, "The State of New Jersey does not specify any appropriate, legal age to leave a child or children home alone."

The Department of Children and Families Policy Manual defines "InadequateSupervision" as "a child left without adult supervision when the child's age, mental or physical conditions do not permit him to provide for his own food, to exercise good judgment, to prevent or deal with emotional or physical crisis or to control his behavior."

This definition supports the widely-held belief that children younger than 8 years should never be left home alone under any circumstances.

* Does your child show signs of responsibility with things like homework, household chores, and following directions? * How does your child handle unexpected situations? * How calm does your child stay when things don't go as planned? * Does your child understand and follow rules?* Can your child understand and follow safety measures?* Does your child make good judgments or is he or she prone to taking risks?* Does your child know basic first-aid procedures?

* When and how to call 911 and what address information to give the dispatcher * Lock and unlock doors* Work the phone/cell phone * Turn lights off and on* Operate the microwave * What to do if there's a small fire in the kitchen, the smoke alarm goes off, there's severe weather or a power outage, a stranger comes to the door and someone calls for a parent who isn't home.

EDITOR'S NOTE: PARENTING WITH PETE by Peter Herbst, MSW, LCSW, runs every first and third Thursday in The Jersey Journal. Have a question? Email him at pete_herbst

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