“Do I have to come???” he whined.
“I don’t want to come… can’t I just stay home?”
There was nothing I wanted more than to drive into town on my own.
No one arguing about music choices, no one complaining about having to get out of the car, no one turning up their noses at whatever I was about to buy for dinner.
It was so tempting to just leave him at home and go on my own, but should I? Could I?
How old is old enough to be leave your child home alone?
Is 8 old enough? 10? 13?
If only it was as simple as a child reaching a certain age and they were magically ok to leave home on their own. But there are lots of different factors to take into account when you decide to leave your child home alone, and it depends so much on individual circumstances.
Here are ten things to consider before leaving your child home alone.
- What are the laws about leaving kids home alone where you live?
- How mature is your child right now?
- Is your child capable of the basics for keeping safe?
- How would your child cope if something unexpected happened?
- What rules do you have when a child is home alone, and can you count on them to remember and follow the rules?
- Is there someone close by they can go to for help?
- How far away will you be and for how long?
- How easy are you to contact and can you come home if needed?
- Are their other kids home too?
- Is your child feeling confident about being home alone?
Every country and state has different laws, so the first thing to do is check them out.
It’s not so much about how old they are, but how mature and responsible they are, and that can change.
Can they lock and unlock the door to let themselves in or out? Can they use the phone? Do they know their full name, address and phone number? Do they know not to leave the house without permission (excepting in an emergency?
Do they know what to do in an emergency? Can they use the phone to call several different people, including emergency services? Do they know how to evacuate? Do they know when to apply exceptions to any rules?
Are they allowed to cook? Do they answer the door if someone knocks? Are they allowed to use technology?
Is there a neighbor who will be home? A family member who lives up the street?
How do siblings get along? Can they cooperate? Will they work together to solve problems?
Do they have any questions or concerns? Have they had some time to think about and get used to the idea?
As well as all those things to think about, one other thing I take into account is – what is my gut feeling about this?
Sometimes you just have to go with your instincts and trust your gut feelings.
In the end I made my ten year old come with me to the shops.
He’s a really responsible kid, but we live in a rural area and our closest neighbors are not that close, and his older sisters were not home. I just felt like I was going to be gone for too long to be comfortable with leaving him home alone on this occasion.
There have been other times when I’ve left him home alone, when circumstances have been different, and he’s coped well. It’s part of growing up, part of learning to be responsible, and part of me learning to let go… but there is no rush.
He wasn’t happy about being made to come to the shops, but I think he understood why this wasn’t a time he could stay home alone. So instead of listening to my podcast in the car, I let him pick the music and we turned it up loud and sang the whole way into town.
Do you let your kids stay home alone?
What things do you consider when deciding whether it is ok for your child to stay home alone?
Do you think there is an age range, or are there other things you take into account?