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Parenting 420

An Advanced Course in Creative Parenting


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When can a child be left home alone?
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whoresonthehill wrote in parenting420
I'm an expat, so my parents get to see my daughter twice a year when we make the long trip to visit them. Unfortunately, because of work schedules, our visits are always pretty short. I said something last time about my almost-7-year old staying for most of the summer soon, but then I realized that both of my parents worked, so some sort of daycare would need to be arranged. My mother said, "But in a few years, she can stay by herself!"

So I've been wondering, at what age would you feel comfortable leaving your kid at home alone for 4-5 hours a day? I don't feel like my daughter is anywhere near ready, even though my parents (well, my dad) started leaving me home alone when I was 8 or so. I think a lot depends on the child's personality - my kid is very erm... adventurous, and I just don't trust her not to try to cook or get into something she shouldn't.

When did you start leaving your kid alone for short periods of time (less than half an hour)? We've occasionally left my daughter here when we went to go check the mail... but we live in a duplex with my inlaws, and they knew we were gone.

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I'd say around 11, but I'd use these checklists to help determine for the specific child:

* 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?
* Does your child follow your instructions about staying away from strangers?

* knowing when and how to call 911 and what address information to give the dispatcher
* knowing how to work the home security system, if you have one, and what to do if the alarm is accidentally set off
* locking and unlocking doors
* working the phone/cell phone (in some areas, you have to dial 1 or the area code to dial out)
* turning lights off and on
* operating the microwave
* knowing what to do if:
o there's a small fire in the kitchen
o the smoke alarm goes off
o there's a tornado or other severe weather
o a stranger comes to the door
o someone calls for a parent who isn't home
o there's a power outage

I think it really depends on the kid. I'd be comfortable leaving my oldest (9) for a half hour-hour alone at the house. For a longer period like 4-5 hours I'd rather him be more like 12 years oldish.

It also depends on the laws in your state/country/region. Where I live, there is not a defined age and it's up to the parent's discretion.

My oldest is 7 3/4 and I recently left him and my younger son (a kindergartner who is very advanced/mature) home alone for about an hour. We went over the basics, they had a phone, dinner on the table, and Wii. We were about a mile away. They were fine, of course, and have been asking when they can do it again.
When my little sister and I were 7 and 5 we were home alone for 2-3 hours a day. I would be okay with that when my oldest is 10.
It helps that I have 2; I feel better about them being together than if it was just one. That said, I'd leave my oldest home alone for less than a half hour.

I think the law here in California is minimum age 12. That was about the age my parents started leaving me alone when they worked in the summer, and about the age that I started to want to *be* alone at home. But I'm sure there are kids around 10 or so who could handle it.

No law in California. 12 is the recommended age.
I recently called child protective services because of concerns about a co-workers children.

Actually according to this website http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchkey-kids-age-limits.htm there's very few states that have a legal age and that varies from 8 to 14.


Personally for me, it would depend on the kid.

I started leaving my eldest for short periods (up to half an hour) when he was about 7.

He's 9 now - I'd feel comfortable leaving him for up to an hour, but my concern is never what he would get up to while I'm gone, but what might happen to me to prevent me getting back to him in time. I'm paranoid, so... what if I were run over? Abducted?

So I make sure he knows who he should call if I don't turn up when I'm meant to.

I wouldn't leave my youngest alone yet (he's 6) either completely unattended, or in the care of his brother. He's still too young, and I don't think it's fair to expect my eldest to mind him.

I think I'm with you -- eight seems a bit young unless there's an older sibling or a sitter. Ten or eleven sounds about right for being home alone for a few hours; thirteen or so is probably when I'd allow a kid to be home alone all day. If you're not comfortable with it yet, that seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Edited at 2010-10-19 12:37 pm (UTC)

My oldest started staying home alone at age 9. We had a few rules - don't answer the phone, don't answer the door and don't use the stove. In case of an emergency, she had our phone numbers and knew how to call 911.


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