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Ark-La-Tex In-depth: Parenting Progress - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Ark-La-Tex In-depth: Parenting Progress

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

"You never really actually know people and they could see you leaving and know you have two little girls at home."

At ages 4 and 5, Migdalia Green's two daughters aren't nearly old enough to be left at home alone, and Green says it'll be many more years before that ever happens.

"Maybe around 13 or 14 and even then it would probably just be to run a quick errand, not for a long period of time."

So are there hard and fast rules or an age when children can legally be left alone?

In Louisiana, it's a crime to leave a child under the age of ten alone in a dangerous situation, when there's evidence the parent had no intention of returning.

Arkansas's laws are very similar - again, a child younger than ten cannot be left alone if the adult is aware of a substantial risk to the child.

Texas is a little different - an adult commits a crime if they leave a child under the age of fifteen in a harmful situation.

But the rest of the Texas statute points out that there is still a lot of gray area for parents to navigate.

"If I know my child goes to sleep at 7pm, and usually sleeps all night long, in my mind, wait, I can go out for an hour or two, and destress myself and come back," says local counselor, Norma Whitaker.

So how can a parent know what is reasonable? Experts say that depends on a variety of factors.

According to kidshealth.org, generally, if your child is over ten and understands the responsibility of household chores and homework.

Also, take a look at how they handle unexpected situations, as well as how well they follow rules.

And does your child know basic first aid and know to stay away from strangers?

Kids health experts also say to consider the area in which you live.

Is it a high traffic area? Crime ridden? And are their neighbors nearby who may be able to step in during an emergency?

But most importantly, ask your child how he or she feels about the idea of staying home alone, even for a short time.

"Have kids stay involved, stay connected to the community, especially as parents, we're working and so this leaves a lot of time for kids to maybe stay at home," explains Laura Brucia-Hamm, with the Center for Families.

Overall, experts agree that it's ultimately up to each parent to decide what's approriate for their child.

And Green says she understands the law, because even though she's already teaching her girls about safety, she says anything younger than ten is just too young to be left alone.

"There's too many things that could happen at that age, too many things they'd want to try and do if I wasn't there."

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