How old is old enough to be left home alone? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 02-02-2002, 05:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was reading the other thread about the woman who left her 2month old, 3 yo and 4 yo home alone. How old do you think a child can be before being left home alone? I admit, I've left my 9 y.o. home alone for brief periods. Like when I was going to a play date in the neighborhood and he didn't want to come. He could easily have walked to the house where I was and I left him the phone # of where I was. He's a mature, responsible child and we've discussed safety rules. (He shouldn't answer the door or phone, no going online when I'm not there, he must keep the dog inside with him.) And there's a park right across the street from my house. So sometimes I take my 5 yo and 2 yo there and the 8 & 9 year olds stay home. But I'm right across the street. They can get me at any time. And I sometimes let my 9 year old walk to the corner store by himself. He doesn't need to cross any busy streets. It's less than a quarter of a mile from our house. So what do you all think?
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#2 of 19 Old 02-02-2002, 05:56 PM
 
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I think it really depends on the maturity of the child. I don't think any of mine were ready at age nine. Of course I live out in the boonies, and where ever I'm going takes me at least a half an hour. Most of mine were at least 12. But that what was right for them, not all children.
I believe my state has a law that leaving a child home alone under the age of 12 is child endangerment. Another case of the state thinking they know better than the parents...

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#3 of 19 Old 02-02-2002, 11:03 PM
 
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As much as I don't think that the government needs to be in every aspect of our lives, I am glad that they make regulations in this area. Those of us with a clue are not the ones the regulations are there for. They are to protect the children of parents who are too cheap to hire a sitter, or who think that nothing will happen. My SIL used to leave her five year old twin girls to watch her itwin nfant boys for the half hour to hour that both she and her dh had overlapping schedules. If that wasn't bad enough they would often be alone for up to two hours and there was seldom food in the house. The girls were so hungry one day that they left the boys alone and went to the next door neighbors house to call their aunt who lived in the same town to come make them a snack. The aunt (also my sil) was in a pretty tough position since she works in the law enforcement field.

It's sad that this would even be an issue.
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#4 of 19 Old 02-03-2002, 11:37 AM
 
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I also vote that it depends on the maturity of the child, the length of the time alone (15 minutes versus a couple hours, etc.), and how close and accessible the parents are (at a neighbor's house vs. miles away, etc.).

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#5 of 19 Old 02-03-2002, 03:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, I agree. I guess you need to evaluate on a case by case basis. If I lived in the boonies like Peggy, I wouldn't leave ds alone.
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#6 of 19 Old 02-03-2002, 11:02 PM
 
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off topic - Peggy - your answer made me realize I was babysitting other people's kids for money at 12! Yikes - I even sat for infants! I look back and think - geez what was wrong with those parents? I could never do that!

way way off topic - I meant to thank you, Peggy for saying you were my fan club in that other thread, you are too cute! How can you be in my fan club if I'm in your's first?
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#7 of 19 Old 02-03-2002, 11:07 PM
 
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I baby sat when I was twelve too (but that was back when Jesus was a baby!) Times seem different now. Although I have let some of my 12 yr. olds look after siblings for a short time.


peggy (proud sponser of the pina la nina fan club )
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#8 of 19 Old 02-04-2002, 01:05 AM
 
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I agree that it should be a case-by-case basis, including if you child wants to be alone. I started leaving my son alone for 5-15minutes at a time last year, when he was 8. I also made sure he had phone numbers, and the dogs were in the house, he knew the rules, etc. Also, we were friendly with the neighbors on both sides, should there have been a problem. Now, at 9, I've left him alone with his 13 yo uncle.......and occasionaly for the 5-10 minute store run. I remember my parents starting to leave me alone at age 9, and I babysat for others at 11! It really does depend on maturity. I think my son could handle an hour or so.

"Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen." Ralph Marston

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#9 of 19 Old 02-04-2002, 01:10 AM
 
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I think it depends on the child as well, but I can't see it for kids under 9 or 10. Of course, being across the street is totally different than going to the store or a longer trip.

I used to babysit when I was young as well. I often used to babysit 4 boys, from a baby to age 8 when their parents went on trips, so over many nights. I couldn't have been more than 12 or 13. I can't imagine how they could have done that.

We are living in New Zealand right now and we just found out from a friend that legally kids cannot babysit here until they are 14.

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#10 of 19 Old 02-04-2002, 01:23 AM
 
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In Britain, the legal age is 12.

It is a serious offence to leave children younger than that un-supervised.

I think that is a good thing.

a

The anti-Ezzo king
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#11 of 19 Old 02-04-2002, 07:45 PM
 
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I would think around 10 - 11 - 12 years, depending on the child.

I'd also make sure we sat down and discussed all kinds of things that could come up. I'd also probobly make him/her roleplay And I'd have a written out list of contact numbers and emergency numbers right next to the phone. Etc, etc.

Since I live in the big city, I'd be super cautious. When I think of the freedom I had as a child, I'm sad that my child won't have the same, but the world is a different place.

I'd also make sure my house was known as a "safe house" and that my kid's friends were welcome to come to my house if there were problems on the walk home etc, and that they could always call.

Am I a worrywart? Yep!
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#12 of 19 Old 02-04-2002, 10:15 PM
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In Indiana the law is 12. If you leave your children alone in a state with a minimum age law you can be reported and have to deal with Child Protective Services.

I've known many people that leave their children alone and tell them not to answer the door or phone so they are not reported. This is not a good situation. Having close neighbors may be beneficial if they will help your kids in an emergency or it can be a problem if your kids don't behave themselves and bother neighbors.

I left my three kids alone to go to a quick dentist appointment. I was only gone a few minutes when our garage caught fire. The phone line immediatly burned and my kids couldn't even call 911. I was so glad my 12 year old did great and got his two brothers out of the house and went to a neighbors to call for help. He was actually worried because he made his brothers go outside without shoes in the winter.

We never know what might happen even if it is a quick trip. If you are going to leave your children alone teach them first aid and what to do in emergencies. I'm a single mom with no support system and my kids have had to be alone more that I would have liked. Besides the fire there has been a tornado, other bad weather problems, power outages, and several injuries. For me a cell phone is a must not a luxery.

I also have reported parents that leave kids alone that aren't handeling it well. Parents can't always tell how their kids behave when they aren't around. The worst kid in our building is a 13 year old girl that acts fine when her single mom is around. Her little sister is no problem.

Before you leave your kids home alone consider all the things that can happen even in a short amount of time. Leave them with something to do. We had one neighbor (psychologist mom) that had a TV free home and frequently left a 10 year old boy alone. He would just wander around until some adult would pay attention to him. A video can keep you child's attention if you are going to be gone a short time. For kids who don't watch much TV this is a treat.
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#13 of 19 Old 02-05-2002, 03:12 AM
 
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Wow... this is a tough issue. I have just realized that I may have broken the law a few times a couple summers back. My 8 year old niece stayed with my husband and I for the summer and since we only have one car if I wanted it for the day I had to drive him to work. On a handful of occasions I gave her the option of staying home in bed rather than get up and ride with us. I always woke her so she wouldn't awaken in an empty flat and get scared and made sure she had phone numbers handy.

You make some excellent points gabner. That same summer I found out that two boys in our complex were bullying the younger kids. I went to have a word with their parent/s. Found out that part of the problem was that the single mom had to work all day and left the 9 and 11 boys in the care of their 15 y/o sister. She tended to lock them out of the house for six or seven hours at a time so she could watch tv and yak on the phone unbothered.
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#14 of 19 Old 02-05-2002, 01:32 PM
 
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Beware parents...I thought I should say this. When I was 9 I was a latch key kid in a single mom household. I cared for my two younger sisters by myself, and my mom didn't get home until 6 p.m. (in the winter it would be dark by then).
At 10 I was left alone with an 11 year old friend, and together we would be responsible for my sisters and his two younger brothers as well. This happened on a regular basis.
At the time we were proud of having such grown up responsibilities. I would have NEVER admitted to anyone that I felt terrified and insecure the whole time. My friend felt the same way.
I trust most, if not all, of you use your best judgement in these matters. Please keep in mind that your child may not be telling you how he/she really feels because they don't want to disappoint you.
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#15 of 19 Old 02-05-2002, 04:26 PM
 
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I agree it depends on the child. I remember being left alone with my sister [2 yrs younger] a few times when I was in elementary school. We were to lock ourselves inside and call the neighbor in an emergency. I HATED it. It scared me beyond belief!! When I was in middle school was the first time I felt comforatable home alone with my sister. I am sure other kids were ok earlier, but I wasnt.

~Sandie
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#16 of 19 Old 02-05-2002, 05:40 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Forest Sage
Please keep in mind that your child may not be telling you how he/she really feels because they don't want to disappoint you.

ooooh, good point forest sage.
i also was babysitting at age 12 or 13. i thought nothing of it then. now, i would never leave my ds with a girl that young. but i am protective of him.
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#17 of 19 Old 02-05-2002, 07:07 PM
 
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How do you find out the laws in your state? My dh heard somewhere that a parent could be put in jail for leaving their child under age 6 or 8(?) unattended in a vehicle for ANY length of time, even a minute. It totally freaks me out to thing of being hauled off to jail while my 2 y.o (still breastfeeding) & 5 y.o. get hauled off to child protective services just for handing a $5 to the cashier just inside the door of the local gas station. (Car & kids, strapped in & locked in, right outside the door in plain view.)

I am so paranoid that the van could get stolen with kids inside or who knows what that I'm really careful. If I can't see them, I don't do it but ...am I a criminal!?! I know laws like that have a purpose but I think they get abused. There would be a lot of perfectly good parents in jail if they enforced that law to the T.
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#18 of 19 Old 02-06-2002, 06:06 AM
 
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Our family has been talking about this lately-- we have a 9yo ds who hasn't stayed alone, and he's clearly too young emotionally, he doesn't want to.

When I was ten, after MUCH pleading, my mother left my younger sister and I home for about half an hour. I was a very responsible kid, but for some reason decided that my sister and I should roast marshmallows over the stove. Mine caught fire, and waving it around to put it out, it hit my sister's hand and stuck to it, still burning. We smothered it, then went to a neighbor.

My mother came home to hear that I had set my sister on fire while she was gone. It was years before we were left alone again.

Stories like gabner's really scare me. (No matter how old the kids are!)

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#19 of 19 Old 02-06-2002, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I know what you mean organicmama and I have no idea what the laws in my state are. Pay-at-the-pump gas stations are my salvation. On the other hand, once in a while, if I'm running into a small store with a big front window and I'm parked right in front, and I know I'll only be a minute,I'll leave my 2 older kids. I was shocked to learn that one of my friends, a classic AP mother, left her 7 year old alone in the car while she shopped at Toys-r-us. There's no contact between the store and the parking lot at a store like that. Anything could have happened. I don't think she deserves to go to jail though.

My mom used to leave me alone in the car until one day, I decided to pretend that I was driving and ended up flooding the engine.
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