“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?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
I totally used to when we still lived in Austria, but living in Shanghai I will not leave my 10 year old at home all by herself, if I am going somewhere, where it will me too long to rush back home in an emergency.
only when either her older brother, her older sister — or both — are home with her.
And I don’t very much like it even when all of them are home — reason being that having to deal with emergencies in China is a challenge even for me, I wouldn’t want them to have to deal with it.
It was a bit different in the previous city we lived in, because we lived in an expat coumpound, so they could just run next doors to ask for help (which actually happened one time, but all ended well). Here, we have to establish our social network among the neighbors first, but after that, yeah, I totally would leave her home alone, provided I could trust her not to spend the whole time watching youtube videos, haha!
Elisabeth Sutherland says
I tend to let my ten year olds stay behind if I’m not going to be long and their older sister is home but I wouldn’t allow them to if I wasn’t taking the younger children as they are a handful at the best times
Snap! I often think about this too. I tend to ask other mums at school with older kids than me when they first started leaving their kids home alone. It is a tricky issue, and I feel it totally depends on each time you consider it. I left my 8 year old at home for the first when we had a sick cat and I had a five minute drive to take my daughter to school. Two minutes into my drive the home number came up on my mobile. Full of panic I answered the phone. He was just ringing to test my number and give me an update on the cat! It was reassuring to know that he was a little nervous too, but excited at being given my trust to stay at home on his own,