How old can they be to stay home alone? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 27 Old 05-26-2010, 10:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How old should a child be before you let them stay home by themselves like when you go to the store? And also over night?

And is there a legal age where that is allowed?
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#2 of 27 Old 05-26-2010, 10:42 PM
 
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Most state laws are actually only guidlines. I think this is something that really depends on the kid. I've recently started letting my 9.5 year old stay home when we go for very quick trips - like a couple of blocks away to drop my MIL off at her apartment, or when dh runs up to the corner store to buy bottles of water or pay a the electric bill or something. 10 minutes at a time or so, tops. I have no idea when I'll do longer trips, since most of our longer trips are to another country (I live on the Mexico side of the US/Mexico border - most longer trips are to the US) and I certainly don't feel comfortable being on a different side of the border than him.
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#3 of 27 Old 05-26-2010, 10:43 PM
 
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Oh, and I actually have no idea if there is a legal age limit in Mexico. I suspect there isn't, or it isn't enforced in anyway.
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#4 of 27 Old 05-26-2010, 10:48 PM
 
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I really think it depends on the kid. My older son would have been fine at 6, I'm sure, though I only started leaving him alone at 8. My younger kid, I'm leaning toward never, ha ha.
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#5 of 27 Old 05-26-2010, 10:55 PM
 
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I agree that it depends on the kid. I was a latch key kid and able to handle things at around 7 for a couple of hours between school letting out and mom getting home from work (as well as before school for about half an hour because single mom had to be to work before my bus came and it was WAY out of the way and too early to drive me herself) but there is absolutely no way my younger brother could have handled that at the same age.

Actually, I was babysitting him full time in the summers by the time I was 11. my mom had to work and I was sick of daycare and capable of watching my 6ish year old brother with mom calling a few times a day to check up on us and keep us on task (we had chores haha) and it saved her money which is ALWAYS needed when you are raising two kids alone.

but again, NO way my brother could have babysat anyone at 11. He is 16 now and only just recently allowed to be alone overnight... and only if NECESSARY. I would have been allowed if necessary by the time I hit high school, it was just never needed. I was spending whole weekends alone at 16 though. Brother gets one night... unless he is sick and then someone will stop by and check on him.
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#6 of 27 Old 05-26-2010, 10:59 PM
 
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Just clicked on this topic from the main page -- I had the funniest conversation with my MIL when they visited last week. We were talking about how I drop of DH at work in the mornings and then come home and finish getting the kids dresed and fed, she asked, "so do you just leave the kids at home while you drop off DH?" I decided to have a little fun with her and nodded, "oh absolutely, we just lock them in and tell them not to turn on the stove." My kids are 4, 2 and 9mo -- Um, heck no I don't leave them home alone!

I'm sure there are legal guidelines for each state, but I think it really depends on the kid's maturity level, how long you plan to be gone, and if they are prepared to deal with an emergency when you're gone.

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#7 of 27 Old 05-26-2010, 11:23 PM
 
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My kids started staying home while I walked the dogs in the neighborhood when they were may be 7 and 8. By 9 and 10, I'd leave them to go to the store briefly. They are 12 and 13, and I'll leave them for several hours.

However, they don't like to be here in the evening without a parent because it feels scarier, so time of day matters. Staying home with a sib is different than being totally alone. How much you like and trust your neighbors also makes a difference.

Over night is WAY older than my kids. One of our neighbors had to suddenly leave over night because of an extended family emergency, so her 14 year old stayed with us.

(These are all well behaved kids, so their safety and comfort are the issues, not their trustworthiness).

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#8 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 07:31 AM
 
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My girls are 7 and 11. They come home from school (which is 8 houses away) by themselves. I work about 10 blocks away. Their dad gets home about 30-45 minutes after they do. They call me when they get home and I'll call them once or so and then dp calls when he gets home. I just started this a month ago.
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#9 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 10:06 AM
 
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My son is 12 and we still don't leave him alone yet. I guess we will start soon but not for long periods.
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#10 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 10:18 AM
 
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It depends on the kid. I let my daughters stay home alone for short periods of time starting around age 9 or 10. I know some 11yos who aren't yet ready for that.

I'm not sure about overnight as it's never come up in my house. My parents live right downstairs so, even if I'm not home (such as when DS was hospitalized last year) there were still adults in the house.

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#11 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 02:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow that's great to know. My daughter is 10 and I feel certain she could be home alone. It would sure save me some hassle when I need to run to the store for something in the evenings without having to schlep them with me.

I guess I worry about the emergencies. What if there's a natural disaster while I'm gone and I can't get back to them quickly? What if my car breaks down on the way home and I'm gone a lot longer than I intended? Or the house catches fire. Etc. Yeah, that's how my brain works; thinks of the worst possible scenario no matter how unlikely.
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#12 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 02:07 PM
 
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we stayed home by ourselves starting when i was about 8. it was usually while my mom ran short errands and such. by the time i was 12ish, my parents would leave us at home all the time... visiting friends, watching movies, work stuff... it wasn't even a question that we'd be ok!

i think the first overnight home-alone was at about 15... and yeah, i totally had a party. so, um, even the most well-behaved kids might not be "safe" to leave home alone as teenagers. it wasn't a crazy party or anything, but there was alcohol involved. after that, though, we were left over night a few more times and by that time the thrill of the house party had worn off (realizing how much cleaning said party required, mainly) so we never did anything like that again.
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#13 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 02:37 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polgara1111 View Post
Wow that's great to know. My daughter is 10 and I feel certain she could be home alone. It would sure save me some hassle when I need to run to the store for something in the evenings without having to schlep them with me.

I guess I worry about the emergencies. What if there's a natural disaster while I'm gone and I can't get back to them quickly? What if my car breaks down on the way home and I'm gone a lot longer than I intended? Or the house catches fire. Etc. Yeah, that's how my brain works; thinks of the worst possible scenario no matter how unlikely.
What if the house catches fire and you're not there? That's a really good thing to discuss with your daughter anyway, regardless of your completely normal, even common, maternal worries.

My kids are 15 y.o. and 11 y.o. I won't be leaving them alone over night for another year or so. I think they'd be pretty nervous. I mean, if something weird happened and dh and I couldn't get home one night, they'd be fine. But I'd avoid the situation. Frankly I might have grandparents or friends come get them.

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#14 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 04:03 PM
 
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My oldest wasn't interested in staying home alone until he was 13 or so. My middle dd was 12, and it's still just for short amounts of time and not in the evening.

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#15 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 04:27 PM
 
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I let my daughter stay home for short times at about age seven.

She was babysitting by age 13.

She's 17 now, and I haven't let her say alone overnight yet. I guess she's capable of it, I'm just not quite ready yet. I doubt anything would happen, but even adults are scared to be the only one in the house at night.
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#16 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 05:07 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polgara1111 View Post
I guess I worry about the emergencies. What if there's a natural disaster while I'm gone and I can't get back to them quickly? What if my car breaks down on the way home and I'm gone a lot longer than I intended? Or the house catches fire. Etc.
you could go over some of those (like a fire) and have a general plan for *if something goes wrong.* We have a couple of retired ladies on our street who are usually home, and we all have cell phones.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#17 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 07:36 PM
 
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My oldest was around 10 when he started staying home for very short periods of time. Now that he is 14 he babysits for us and for the neighbors but we always make sure there is an adult available close by (neighbors or grandparents) in case of emergency. I don't think I will feel comfortable leaving him home alone overnight for quite some time.
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#18 of 27 Old 05-27-2010, 08:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polgara1111 View Post
Wow that's great to know. My daughter is 10 and I feel certain she could be home alone. It would sure save me some hassle when I need to run to the store for something in the evenings without having to schlep them with me.

I guess I worry about the emergencies. What if there's a natural disaster while I'm gone and I can't get back to them quickly? What if my car breaks down on the way home and I'm gone a lot longer than I intended? Or the house catches fire. Etc. Yeah, that's how my brain works; thinks of the worst possible scenario no matter how unlikely.
I was taught my grandma's phone numbers and my grandpa's phone numbers as well as having them and a bunch of other numbers written down just in case. I was also not allowed to use the stove/oven and I knew enough neighbors where I could easily go to their place if necessary.

I think part of deciding your child is old enough to be home alone (be it for 10 minutes or over night) is also having a feel for how they might handle emergencies. If they notice fire, would they know to just leave and have a neighbor call 911 rather than trying to put it out? If they expected you home and you aren't (and somehow couldn't tell them you are late) would they know which family member or friend or neighbor to call or go to? Talking to them about that kind of stuff I think is part of making sure they are prepared once you decide they are ready to be alone for any set amount of time.
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#19 of 27 Old 05-28-2010, 09:28 AM
 
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my childrens were about 8 when i started leaving them for 10 ims or so while i ran to the shop accross the road. they were 12 and 10 when they started coming home from school alone and were by themselves for an hour or so until i got back from work. now they are 16 and 13 i work evenings and get home about 2am they are alone from 5pm until then.

since they were very young we have always had a plan for dealing with a fire they know what to do. Until recently they were not allowed to use the cooker and most days i make dinner for them before i leave. they both have a phone and can call several neighbours if there is a problem also thier dad is only a mile away and can be here in 5 mins if needed.
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#20 of 27 Old 05-28-2010, 06:55 PM
 
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My daughter started staying at home for a short time when she was six. When she was seven and a half she was allowed to come home from school before we got home. She is nine now, and can stay home by herself for seven-eight hours and loves the privacy. She always has other options, but I'm thinking that if she wants the space, privacy and freedom she should be allowed this. She's a very responsible kid, and she'll always phone or text me if she's not sure if she's allowed to do something.

Last week I gave in and let her babysit her brother, who's almost five. I had a neighbour as a backup, of course, but there was no need. I left the house at five after having made supper, and she made sure he had some, and something to drink, they watched tv, and she brushed his teeth, helped him with his PJs, read to him and when I came home at ten past nine they were both sound asleep. I think she grew an inch that night!

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#21 of 27 Old 05-28-2010, 07:47 PM
 
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I think it depends completely on maturity and so can really vary. Our ds is 9, and not at all ready to stay home alone. I asked him last night. He'd had to go home with a friend because dh's car broke down and dh wasn't able to pick ds up from the bus stop. I told ds that since he had a key to the house, he could come home and wait for his dad. Ds told me that he didn't like to be alone.

Many local Red Cross organizations have a "when I'm home alone" course that teaches kids the basics about being safe at home. Our local organization offers the course for kids 8-11.

This is a pretty good list of things to think about to see if your child is ready to stay home alone.

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#22 of 27 Old 05-31-2010, 03:40 AM
 
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i leave my kids alone sometimes after they are all asleep. they know i'm going out (and it's only to one of the neighbours within our complex) and i take my cell phone. i don't leave them alone to go anywhere off the property, unless it's a quick run to the store for something. we live in a pretty small town, so i don't worry much. as flaky as my 11yo can be, he is very responsible about his brothers, and i think it's good for kids to learn to be self-sufficient.

i only leave during the day to run and do laundry (which i do at my neighbours these days. my wretched washing machine broke ) my 5yo cannot be left to his own devices for longer than 5 minutes, even with all his brothers watching him!

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#23 of 27 Old 06-05-2010, 11:26 PM
 
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Like others have posted, it all depend on the kid's maturity. And also the neighborhood. We're more likely to get raccoons in the house than strangers in our yard.

DD was mature, so by age 8 I was able to run to the corner store. Probably no more than 5 or 10 minutes.

And around that age, I was able to walk around (and around and around) the small block that our house faces, walking past my house every 3 - 5 minutes. I got in shape one spring doing that. DD would wave to me from the window some, and run out to stop me if she wanted me.

When she was about 12, she got a cell phone and house key, and that gave us all a nice degree of freedom. I had opposed the cell phone when DH first came home with it, but after setting firm limits on its use, it turned out to be a real help!

If needed, we trust her alone at the house for up to a few hours.

She's a young teen now, and I'm wondering when we will feel comfortable leaving her overnight. We have really wonderful neighbors (the people that would raise her if DH and I both died), who work in the medical field (that's handy!), so that helps.

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#24 of 27 Old 06-06-2010, 08:58 PM
 
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Just started to do this with our oldest...she loves it!

Consciously mothering 3 girls and 2 boys
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#25 of 27 Old 06-08-2010, 05:05 PM
 
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It does depend, but check state laws. I know ours are pretty strict.

I started teaching summer school in 2007. My kids were 11, 9, and 6 (almost 7). I was gone for 4 hours and my in laws live a mile away and dh was working 5 minutes away. They did great that summer! Better than they do now that they are 14, 12 and 9, LOL. They fight more now and make bigger messes, LOL.
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#26 of 27 Old 06-09-2010, 01:19 PM
 
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Close to age 10 when I let her stay home for a few when running her sister to dance lessons or running to the store.

Now I let her stay home one on one with either of her sisters while I run errands or one of them to dance lessons, she's close to 11. Just this week I let her come home from school, let herself in and chill while I was at a meeting and the other 2 were at the sitters. First time she was home alone for more than an hour-she called me when she got here, I let her on the 'puter and called before I left. She said she was bored! LOL

This summer I plan on trying to have her with the older 2 while I go to yoga or running. But they fight alot now, so we'll see.

For the 7 year old, she'll probably be ready to hang out at home for short trips when she's around 8-9 (in a year).

For the 3 year old, I'm thinking probably never...
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#27 of 27 Old 06-09-2010, 01:57 PM
 
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I checked the state laws in MD and it said 8. But there is no way my child was ready to stay home alone then. She is 10 now and like others have stated, I let her stay home for abut 10 mins. at a time, just long enough to make a quick dash to the store or pick up pizza or something.
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