What age do you let your kids stay home alone? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 04:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Title says it all.

My oldest is 8 and I've begun thinking about when he'll be able to stay home alone for short periods.

I was 9 when my mom would leave me home for about an hour with my younger brothers -- they were 8 and 3 at the time and this was 20+ yrs ago.

How old? How long? What are the laws in your state? How do I find the laws for mine?

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#2 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 04:54 PM
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DD is only 3 so take it with a grain of salt In our state (FL) there is no set age - it is up to the parents' discretion.

I would say it depends on your dc. I dunno as I would let an 8 year old babysit younger siblings (too much responsibility for being so young imo) but I would totally allow a mature 8 year old to stay home for very short periods -- like a quick trip to the store, picking another child up from an activity... a pedicure or something of that nature.

I would make sure dc knew, understood, and agreed with certain "rules" I would feel comfortable setting for a child so young -- don't answer the phone or tell anyone you are home alone, keep the door locked, no answering the door unless it is a family member (like grandmom or whatever), no going outside, no using appliances other than maybe the toaster (or something simple and pretty fire-proof .... things of that nature.

My best friend's sons were 7 and 9 when she left them alone for short periods (like quick trips to the corner store etc) and she is a police officer so she obviously felt this was okay.

I think it depends on the child's maturity level and well, only you and your child know that

My mom would leave my sister and I alone after school until she got home from work (from only about 3pm to 530pm) when we begggggggggggggggggggged her not to have a babysitter anymore. We were about hmmm... 7 and 11? We did fine, but my sister was really mature as well and we had next door neighbors that were friendly and helpful in case of emergency (of which there never was).

Good luck in your decision.
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#3 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 05:58 PM
 
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We live with my FIL, though he is wheelchair-bound, not a hands on grandad, etc- and I will leave my 7 and 9yos

ETA for clarification- for short shopping trips or the like. Not for a day.

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#4 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 07:19 PM
 
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I think it depends on how long - and the individual kids...

There was a family that I used to babysit for that still had me come when the kids were 13, 11, 9... I wasn't there to 'babysit' the 13yo. But I was there to keep an eye on him. He had poor decision making abilities (he was perfectly 'fine' - just not very mature) and so he was likely to get caught up in things and do something dumb.

He wasn't ready.

I started staying home for short periods of time when I was 7 or 8. There was a store a few blocks from my house - and my parents were fine with my nanny being away for 20 minutes or so. But 10 or 11 I was allowed to stay home all day all summer. But my parent's owned their own business which was 5 minutes by car. So I would call before I did 'anything'... If I wanted to play outside I called and told her I would be outside for an hour. When I came in - I called her to let her know. A few times she called and got no answer and my dad was home really quickly.
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#5 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 09:20 PM
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Eight is WAYYYYYYY too young. Even my 11 yo isn't ready for it yet.

Any "quick trip" away from home could turn into something much bigger/longer if you got into an accident. And then you could be charged with child neglect.

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#6 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 09:27 PM
 
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I let my 11 year old stay home for about an hour and my 7 1/2 year old stay home for 5-10 minutes, like when I drop the babysitter off at the bus or if she gets off the school bus 5 minutes before I get home (she has her own key). I believe 12 is the age dd1 can legally babysit, but I'm not sure she will be mature enough to do that yet. And I would not leave my kids alone together for any major length of time until they stop fighting so much.

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#7 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 09:28 PM
 
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I didn't feel comfortable until they were about 12 or 13. I think younger than that is too young, unless you are next door or somewhere accessible.
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#8 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 09:36 PM
 
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I let my girls stay home alone for half an hour or an hour at a time starting around age 9 or 10. I'd certainly wait longer for a child who didn't seem mature enough.

I didn't let DD1 babysit until she was 12. I'd planned to do the same with DD2 but at 11.5 I decided she and DS were mature enough for her to watch him.

I checked the NYS CPS webpage before leaving DD1 home alone. It's pretty vague and said 'when the child is mature enough" and the babysitting page said to use judgement about the maturity of the babysitter and the younger child(ren).

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#9 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 09:44 PM
 
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My oldest is 13 and I don't let her stay home alone or with siblings. She doesn't have the maturity and self control yet and fights too much with her siblings for me to be comfortable leaving the house for even 5 minutes. Something that we are working on, but it will be a couple years at least....Most of her friends stay home alone and/or watch siblings

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#10 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 10:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by A&A View Post
Eight is WAYYYYYYY too young. Even my 11 yo isn't ready for it yet.

Any "quick trip" away from home could turn into something much bigger/longer if you got into an accident. And then you could be charged with child neglect.
Oh, I absolutely agree. I realized that my post came across as me being ok with leaving my 8 yr old with younger sibs. (They're 8,6, and 7 mos. NO WAY.) That's not it at all. It's just a topic that I've been thinking of in recent weeks.

I don't think it was safe for my mom to leave me home responsible for my younger brothers at 9 yrs old, either. (However, 1 car family, she needed the vehicle, so had to drive dad to work at 6 AM.)

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#11 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 10:27 PM
 
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My DS is 9. Last year I wouldn't leave him home alone for more than 5 minutes to walk to the mailbox. But this year, he has really matured and I will leave him home for an hour or sometimes two. However, I have several nieghbors that I could call if something came up. He also has their phone numbers if I am gone longer than expected and he can't reach me by cell phone.

He doesn't get to babysit his little sister yet, though. He is too easily distractable.

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#12 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 10:54 PM
 
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Here there are no laws on what age a child can be left home alone.

My oldest is 9 & I've left her for up to 1.5 hours by herself. Her sisters are 6 & 7. on occassion left her sisters by themselves for a few minutes. Once case of that was when it was -40F without the windchill & I had to run something to the school for one of my other kids(or pick them up). We are 2 minutes from the school.
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#13 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 11:00 PM
 
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DD was 10 before I started leaving her alone for short periods. It was more an issue with my comfort level more so than hers. I've never left her for more than an hour or two, but that's not because she couldn't handle it, just that I don't have anywhere to go for longer than that. I could not leave DS (8) alone or even with DD, they fight too much and I'm afraid they'd tear down the house while I was gone. That said, I will leave them in the house alone while I run. I'm usually gone for about 30 minutes, but I'm running past the house every 5.
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#14 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 11:19 PM
 
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Hmm... I was pretty young when I was left home alone, and shortly after that I was expected to babysit younger cousins. I was a mature child, but still. Anything could have happened. Especially at night.

I'm thinking 11-12 would probably be ok. But I don't think I'd do it before then. And even then not for more than 1-2 hours and not all the time. But if the kid weren't ready then it would be even longer.

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#15 of 63 Old 06-17-2008, 11:24 PM
 
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Just want to say...

You can get the Canadian and American Red Cross babysitter certificate starting at 11...

http://www.redcross.ca/article.asp?id=628&tid=021
http://www.redcross.org/services/hss...babyindex.html
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#16 of 63 Old 06-18-2008, 06:43 PM
 
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Here is what I found on my state:

http://www.njla.org/statements/children_libraries.html

Basically, I'm within their guidelines, but I'm following my gut on what my kids can handle and what is safe for them.

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#17 of 63 Old 06-18-2008, 07:28 PM
 
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I don't know. My oldest is only 6 and while I really do feel he would be fine for 5-10 minutes, the thought of someone breaking in or a fire starting or anything just freaks me out. I'm guessing 10 at the earliest and without being in charge of his brother.
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#18 of 63 Old 06-18-2008, 09:06 PM
 
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I think a lot of kids would probably be fine for a couple of minutes. But would they be fine if you didn't come home? Even if the school is 2 minutes away, what if you had a stroke or got hit by a car? Would your little ones know what to do? I think that is a major issue when considering to leave your children home alone.
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#19 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 01:53 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by primjillie View Post
I think a lot of kids would probably be fine for a couple of minutes. But would they be fine if you didn't come home? Even if the school is 2 minutes away, what if you had a stroke or got hit by a car? Would your little ones know what to do? I think that is a major issue when considering to leave your children home alone.
That same stuff can happen while you are at home, or on a walk with your kids. I don't live my life based on the rarity and fear of "what if's".
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#20 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 02:42 AM
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I let my 8 and 10 yo stay home alone for 1-2 hours. I am in the general neighborhood.
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#21 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 10:16 AM
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That same stuff can happen while you are at home, or on a walk with your kids.
You can somehow manage to get in car accident while at home?

Statistical analysis will show that a car coming through your living room window (or even hitting you on the sidewalk while you take a walk) is a very rare occurrence.

Getting in a car accident while you are driving, however, is a much more likely occurrence.

Gotta go with the odds and not leave kids home alone before they are old enough (which I would vote is at least 13.)

PLUS: If you leave an 8 yo. home alone, you get in a car accident, something happens at home which injures your child, you'll be charged with child neglect.

If you take a walk with your kids and you happen to get hit by a car (again, very rare), you won't be charged with child neglect.

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#22 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 10:40 AM
 
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This link has guidelines by state in the US. Most states don't have strict laws, it would appear, but rather recommendations.
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#23 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 11:18 AM
 
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Well, if I were ever in a car accident I would prefer that my children were home alone--I certainly wouldn't want them in the car with me.

Seriously though, if your kids were home alone and you didn't come back don't you think they'd call someone? It's not like an 8 yo old is just going to sit inside the house and slowly starve to death because you didn't return. And talking about improbabilities, what would be the chances that you would both meet with separate accidents at the same time?

I've been leaving my kids home alone for short periods starting around 8 and they've always done fine with it.

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#24 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 11:34 AM
 
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You can somehow manage to get in car accident while at home?
yeah that's exactly what I said(extreme sarcasim here). The person I was responding to also mentioned stroke happening if you were gone. There are the other things people mentioned too like a robbery, fire, injuries, etc that can all happen while you are at home. They happen even when parent is standing right next to the child.

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PLUS: If you leave an 8 yo. home alone, you get in a car accident, something happens at home which injures your child, you'll be charged with child neglect.
Maybe, IF the laws state that the child should not have been left home alone. You mentioned that the chance of a car coming through your house is rare, I'd guess that being in an accidnet & having your child at home injured around the same time are just as rare.

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If you take a walk with your kids and you happen to get hit by a car (again, very rare), you won't be charged with child neglect.
No but if you're on a walk with your kids & you get hit by a car(which is more likely to happen than a car-car accident in this town) & are knocked unconscious our killed your child is still left alone & not every driver will stop & not every situation will have a witness.

Again, I don't live my life in fear of rare events or what if's. I am not teaching my children to live in fear of the unknown & low chances of something happening. Ie, not directly related to leaving kids alone but a similar thought process. My neighbor is scared of storms, especially anything that may turn into a tornado. She in turn has put that fear into her kids. Every thunderstorm they're terrified. Yeah we've had tornados here, not as bad as in other places(3-4 times a year 1 MAY touch the ground). We live across the street from her, but do not hold the same fear she does. Living in fear of the rare chance of something occuring every time a storm came up I'd grab the kids & personal papers and hide out in the basement. We don't becuase we know the chance of it actually happening is slim, even when there is a tornado watch & warning we don't. We had a wind storm & thunderstorm watch the other night that brought us F1-F2 Tornado winds & we didn't hide out JIC there was that rare chance that anything would touch down.
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#25 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 11:42 AM
 
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PLUS: If you leave an 8 yo. home alone, you get in a car accident, something happens at home which injures your child, you'll be charged with child neglect.

If you take a walk with your kids and you happen to get hit by a car (again, very rare), you won't be charged with child neglect.
As an ex-lawyer I don't know why you think the first situation *would* be charged with neglect unless there are specific laws making it illegal to leave a child of a certain age home alone. Most jurisdictions don't have those. It always *might* be charged, but it doesn't seem likely unless the parent was doing something neglectful without respect to the consequences of the parent's car accident.

If you intend to leave your responsible 13 year old alone for 4 hours and have an accident and wake up in the hospital 48 hours later, I would think you would not be charged.

Similarly I doubt they would charge someone who intended to leave her responsible 9 year old for 15 minutes but woke up in the hospital 8 hours later.
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#26 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 12:47 PM
 
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My child is only 5.5, so I really don't know.

I think my Mom started leaving me alone to babysit my sisters at about 11, my sisters were 5 & 6 then. It was never for very long, we were not allowed to open the door or go outside and she had a cellphone that she would check in with.

My son is very mature and has always been a careful child ... even as a baby he was very aware of being cautious and not hurting himself or doing anything dangerous. I can see leaving him alone for short trips around age 11. I don't think I would leave him responsible for any younger children, but I can see leaving him alone.

I guess I'll know for sure once we get there. I actually trust that he would be fine for an hour or two by himself now, that's how careful he is, but there is no way I'd actually do that.

So I'm going to say age 11. We'll see if I still agree in another 5 years.

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#27 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 12:57 PM
 
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I want to add...

I wouldn't leave my child home alone unless I was sure that they were old enough (and mature enough) and able to go to a neighbor or call a relative if they felt something was wrong.

So - I don't see what the argument is about getting into a car accident and the kid being left alone for 48 hours is... I wouldn't leave a child who couldn't call their grandma or Aunt after I was gone longer than I said I would.

So I think that's a ridiculous example to bring into this.

And that's why I think age requirements are stupid. It all depends on the child. If the kid would sit forlorn by themself for 48 hours when their mom didn't come home - that kid isn't ready to be left by themself. That's pretty common sense.
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#28 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 02:19 PM
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Y'all can do what you want with your kids, I guess. Personally I'm just not taking any chances with my kids being alone until at least age 13.

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#29 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 02:20 PM
 
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Somewhere around 10 we started experimenting with that for very short periods. By the time Ds was 13 and Dd was 11 they could be home alone for some good bits of time alone.

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#30 of 63 Old 06-19-2008, 02:32 PM
 
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Y'all can do what you want with your kids, I guess. Personally I'm just not taking any chances with my kids being alone until at least age 13.
What do you worry that could happen?

I'm trying to think of all the worst case scenarios... And I can't imagine what advantage a 13yo would have over a 12yo...

They are both old enough to exit the house in case of fire. They can work a telephone to call for help. They can fix themself a snack - or at the very least, help themselves to some crackers from the pantry.

Is there something magical that happens on the 13th birthday?

I would say that 'many' kids are fully competent to stay home alone by 10 or 11.
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