What age to leave home alone for an hour? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 01:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ongoing disagreement with DH - he thinks next year it'll be okay for our then-6-year-old son to ride the bus home and stay there alone for an hour until I get off work. I'm thinking he's too young still. But, I do get DH's point that he's half a block away (DH works just down the street from our house) if something happens, but then I counter with how will he KNOW if something happens? Opinions? Am I being over-cautious? Something else we're not thinking of?

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#2 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 02:05 PM
 
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My dd is still only 4yo, but we're around a lot of older neighbor kids, and I don't think any of them are staying alone at that age (I certainly don't think I'd be comfortable with it). I think I recall a neighbor saying that they were thinking about it trying it with their 10yo- which sounds more reasonable to me.
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#3 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 02:05 PM
 
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Not enough information but, in general no. When to allow a child to be home alone depends on a lot more than age. If your dh works only 1/2 block away and it's only for an hour then I'd make arrangements for him to meet the bus and take the child back to work for the hour.

For a child to stay home alone they have to have the maturity and training to do it and they have to feel safe themselves.
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#4 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 02:06 PM
 
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I personally feel like 6 is WAY too young! If your dh is just a block away, couldn't your ds just hang out at his work for an hour....or you dh come home for an hour (maybe take a super late lunch or something?)

I leave my 11 year old home for an hour or so sometimes, but still feel nervous about it...I feel like he is responsible enough not to do stupid things while alone (at 6, not sure the responsibility/reasoning would be there...) but worry about break-ins or something similar.

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#5 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 02:10 PM
 
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In my state, the rules require that a child be 10 or older prior to staying home alone. The AAP states that a child should be 11 or 12 before being without adult supervision.

There is no way I would be okay with my child being home alone at 6.
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#6 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 02:14 PM
 
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I have just started leaving my responsible, sensible, phone-equipted 10 YO home while I (and 7 YO DD) go to the grocery store or similar. I definitely would not be comfortable with a 6 YO. Before leaving DS I felt confident that he knew how to use the phone for emergencies, how to screen calls on the answering machine before answering incoming calls, to not answer the door, to safely fix a snack. I have seen him respond calming to minor emergencies and injuries. Most importantly, I had a good sense that he would follow the safety rules that I set out for time alone. I know he's an all-around responsible kid. I don't get the same sense that my younger child would think about the safety issues before impulsively doing whatever she wanted. And she would totally freak out if she fell and scraped her knee or something, let alone be able to deal with a real emergency.

That said, there certainly are 6 YO latchkey kids around who seem to be fine, so I suspect that is what your DH is seeing and responding too. Does you school not have any sort of supervised afterschool program to fill that hour gap? I think that is where I would start.
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#7 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 02:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post
Does you school not have any sort of supervised afterschool program to fill that hour gap? I think that is where I would start.
He can go to daycare after school, which is what he does now, DH is just figuring why bother when he can come home. I'm sticking with my gut on this one.

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#8 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 03:50 PM
 
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Might not be legal to leave your 6 y.o. even if you did think he was ready.

I certainly wouldn't, especially not in the situation you describe where there'd be no one to make sure he even got off the bus and made it into the house okay.
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#9 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 03:52 PM
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I have a very mature, responsible, cautious 7 yr. old and I would feel comfortable leaving him home for half an hour now. Probably at 8 I'll be okay with an hour.
At 7, I walked home from school with my kindergarten-aged sister, and we stayed home from 3 until my mom got home at 5-5:30. We never had any problems and I don't think my 7yo is less capable than I was or the world is more dangerous.
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#10 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 03:56 PM
 
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6 is WAY too young to stay home alone - and like others have mentioned also very likely illegal. I'd answer ten to your question - although my very mature 9 year old dd could handle it. Would I want her to do it every day - no. I just don't think it is appropriate.
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#11 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 04:00 PM
 
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6 is way too young, IMO. If something were to happen...kids tend to panic and not know what to do, like if there's a fire, or someone they don't know comes to the door. So your DH being a block away doesnt' mean much. It helps to have him close, but only if he's aware there's a problem.

I'd feel comfortable closer to age 10. My mom started leaving me for an hour or so then and I handled it ok. I think it depends on the kid though. Some aren't ready until much older.
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#12 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 04:01 PM
 
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6??? No. I might consider 10. But never ever 6.

Show this to your dh: http://www.co.dakota.mn.us/Departmen...oneHowLong.htm

While there's no specific law in MN, the Dakota county attorney's office counts it as neglect if a child younger than 7 is left home alone for any amount of time. I suspect most other jurisdictions would do the same. (I know someone who works in juvenile justice in MN, if you really need to know, I can ask her.)

I believe the national SafeKids Coalition recommends age 12 to be home alone.

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#13 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 04:33 PM
 
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'Legally' here - I think it is 14. I don't know what it is 'legally' where you live though.

Saying that - every child is very different. 14 might be alright for some children and not others ...and thats quite an age difference from 6! lol

At 6...no I do not think I would be okay with DS being left home alone for an hour. At 8...probably. Will see when we get there! Just to show every child is different - id probably be fine leaving my friends DD home alone for an hour at 6 - if she were my daughter. But shes not - and shes not my DS! lol

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#14 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 04:46 PM
 
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I would try it for a half hour at about 8 or 9, if I had a neighbor who I knew would be home, and who my child would go to if something went wrong. That's how it was for me when I was a kid-- my mom would go out to the store or whatever, and leave me, but my aunt was next door, or my neighbor on the other side was home and knew to keep an eye on things. I was 9 when we started doing that.

Without that, I think 10 or 11 would be my minimum, and only during daylight hours, and only with a very mature and responsible kid.

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#15 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 05:39 PM
 
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I have a 6 year old and an almost 9 year old (plus 2 youngers) and I would NEVER even consider this for years to come. I was left alone for 1.5 hours a day when I starting when I was 6 and although nothing bad ever happened (and I was a ridiculously responsible child) it was not a good feeling to be alone like that. Sometimes I was lonely, or really excited about something with no one to share it with, disappointed with no one to console me, frightened, hungry, bored, etc. That is a lot of things for a 6 or 7 year old to deal with on a daily basis ALONE.

I wouldn't personally leave a child that young even occasionally, but the 'once in a while' idea when a parent runs to the store scenario is much different than every day after a long day at school. Go with your gut!


 

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#16 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 06:39 PM
 
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Yep. Go with your gut on this one.

DS is 14 now and has been staying home by himself for an hour or 2 after school since he was 11. We still had our share of issues in that first year. (I hated to leave him but as a single parent, I did what I could then) He let friends in the house, He "experimented" with whether green leaves burned faster/slower than brown leaves , etc..

My (just turned) 9 yr old DSD was home sick just yesterday. I was upstairs with the baby. She answered the door and came upstairs to get me. All the while, leaving the front door ajar and the man standing at the threshhold She has been told all the rules as far as not answering the door, screening calls, etc. All it takes is a moment.....

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#17 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 06:56 PM
 
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I have a very mature responsible 6 1/2 yo and I wouldn't be comfortable leaving him home alone for any amount of time. He knows how to use the phone, knows who to call in an emergency, knows our next door neighbors very well, knows not to open the door or answer the phone, can and does make himself snacks, and desperately *wants* to be left home alone, but I am not okay with it. For me, some of it has to do with my own childhood (I was left at home alone in a situation similar to yours after school and I was not comfortable with it but never mentioned my feelings to my parents) but most of it is just the "what if?" question. What if I got into a car accident and was unable to let people know my son was home alone? What if I just got held up in traffic and was unable to let him know? I do not want him at home worrying and wondering where I am if I am late. What if someone rang the doorbell several times? How would he feel, would he open the door? Would he be scared? What if something went wrong and he tried to go to the neighbors but they weren't home and he got locked out? I can think of dozens of scenarios, some of which are fairly likely, that I'm just not comfortable with. I am not really particularly worried about something bad happening, I just don't want to put him in a position where he feels scared.
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#18 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 07:12 PM
 
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Here's a list by state:

http://www.latchkey-kids.com/latchke...age-limits.htm

Looks like it wouldn't be illegal but that doesn't make it the right thing to do.

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#19 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 07:31 PM
 
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We lived across the street from the school dd went to last year. I only felt safe with her crossing the street to get to our home because it is a small school. The teacher kept a close eye on her until she was passed off to the crossing guard and the crossing guard watched until she was in the house. Even with those people watching her I rarely left the window from the time I heard the last bell ring she was in the house. We set things up for her to walk home at age 7 as her walk home came when ds2 was napping more days then not. I would not have felt comfortable with her home alone for any length of time at that age. We just decided, at age 8, it was safe for her to walk barely out of our site to where the mailboxes are in the mobile home park we now live in.

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#20 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 09:12 PM
 
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I started leaving my ten yr old when she was...almost ten LOL I feel fine with it and so does she.
I think 6 is too young, personally. It probably isn't illegal because there are only like 3 states or something that even have ages on the books for that.
Good luck!

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#21 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 09:16 PM
 
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My dd has just turned 8 and I don't think she'd be OK with being home alone. I'm pretty free range, too. I just think she'd be scared, knowing her personality. Maybe a different 8-year-old? I can't even imagine leaving her home at 6.
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#22 of 46 Old 02-23-2010, 10:01 PM
 
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For 5 days a week, a full hour each day? Nope, no way! Now I'll admit it was *very* tempting to leave my DS home alone this morning. He was under the weather (not sick-sick, just sniffles and run down but fully functional) and I had to run his sister to school. I would have been gone for literally less than 15 minutes. Honestly I wasn't so worried about anything happening as I *know* all he'd have done was watch cartoons, but I was more afraid of him getting scared - and I won't do that to him. It was tempting though! But, imo, he's still too young.
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#23 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 09:13 AM
 
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Stick to your guns on this one. 6 is too young.

I leave my older two alone sometimes. Here are my considerations;

-How far is the parent going?
-Can the parent be reached at all times? (I have Bluetooth in the car and recommend it for this reason).
-Does the child know how to reach the parent?
-Is the child good about answering the phone?
-Will the child not go to the door or look out the window if someone comes to the door? (tough one)
-What is the housing situation? Apartment with at-home neighbor? Cul-de-sac? Single family home with bushes hiding it from the street and access to the road from two sides? I just described the perfect house to rob.

At age 12, a totally reasonable age to leave a child at sunset, someone tried to break into our home while I was alone. I screamed, hid in the yard and ran to the neighbors'. They left quickly.

Let me add to that story that it wasn't the only time. If you or a neighbor have been robbed in the last few years, you should put off leaving your child alone for a long time. If someone sees you pull out of your driveway, that is usually the opportune moment, as what happened in our case.

Our house had previously been targeted, right after we all left for dinner elsewhere. When they tried to get in, my parents had just left. They weren't concerned doing so because my sister was supposed to be dropped off. So I didn't think much when a car pulled up, thinking it was my sister but then thought it odd that she didn't come in right away. I came up to the door and could see the knob jiggling and could hear something metal being placed on it. The last time we were robbed, they had gotten in by using a metal device on the doorknob to force it open. I put it together quickly that the same guys were in process of returning (common, new stuff replaced by insurance).

The first time, the police came and told us right away, most who come to rob, that is their intent. Criminals tend to stick to their speciality. So, I was told, usually if they get wind that someone is home, they will abandon the project immediately.

Usually the horror stories of being robbed and then killed are when the criminal is caught, cornered, etc. It's not very often than they go to take valuables, hear a child inside and say "Oh, let's kidnap instead!" So I took comfort in the fact that I really didn't risk being raped or killed. These were (drug addict) robbers who wanted money for their next fix.

The police told me that if I heard a sound, to simply yell at the dog. We don't have a dog so a better solution is to call the parent and talk loudly. The dog solution was also in the days before cell phones. If your child hears anything, instruct your child to do one of the above. Make noise and make it obvious that they are there.

Don't make the mistake of tracking the crime rate in your neighborhood. We were in a very nice suburb in the S.F. Bay Area. The dodgy area was a good 40-45 minutes away. They commute.

If I leave mine, I just make sure that I can get back quickly. For example, I swim but wont do it leaving kids alone. Can't get a hold of me in the pool! I will go to the grocery store. You may or may not be able to leave quickly from work. I also wont leave the two younger girls alone, although I will leave the two older ones. The two girls fight.

This might be a good regular baby-sitting assignment for a teenager. A six year old doesn't need the care and supervision that a younger baby would so perhaps a local girl would like to help out for a reasonable fee. Another solution would be to have him go to a friends'. Again, a SAHM might appreciate a bit of extra cash for doing what she usually does anyway, be home with her kids in the afternoon.

Good luck!
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#24 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 12:19 PM
 
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Wow that is way too young! Can a neighbor watch him for an hour? I have a very responsible 9 year old and have only left her a few times to go get something at the store. Usually it's something urgent like she's sick and I need to get her some medicine and Popsicles and don't want to drag her along with a fever/vomiting. Under normal circumstances I won't leave my kids alone yet. There are always unforeseen things that can happen even if the kid is doing everything right. The times I have left my 9yo she has to stay in my room, never answer the door or phone, and I had her on the cell most of the time I was away.

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#25 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 12:54 PM
 
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My ds just turned 7. I'm not even comfortable leaving him home for a few minutes with dh sleeping in the same house.

6 seems WAY too young to me. I'd stick to your gut on this one.
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#26 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 12:55 PM
 
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Probably will depend where I am living.

As a kid I had my babysitting certificate at 11 and babysat at 12...but was never allowed to stay with just my brother (3y younger than me). My mom was a SAHM so she was there all the time, we lived in a big farm in the middle of nowhere. I was likely at least 14 before I was allowed to stay alone.

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#27 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 01:33 PM
 
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I was ten when my parents started leaving me alone for any significant period of time, and twelve when I started watching my younger siblings. My older dd is seven, and it will be at least a few years before we start leaving her on her own. I can see around ten being okay with me too.

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#28 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 02:09 PM
 
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Our school district will not release the Kindergarten and First Graders (so through age 7 or 8) without a parent and/or adult on the release waiver waiting for them at the bus stop. So that might be an issue too! I would certainly NOT be ok with my 6 year old being alone for any amount of time. Although, my cousin HATED their babysitter, and starting being a "latch key kid" alone at home in first grade, starting at 6!! She remembers that time with a great deal of fear now, being alone in the country from 4:30 to 5:30 every day

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#29 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 02:17 PM
 
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I started leaving DS1 alone for short periods of time when he was 10. I would not feel comfortable leaving a 6 year old alone.

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#30 of 46 Old 02-24-2010, 05:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ann_of_loxley View Post
'Legally' here - I think it is 14. I don't know what it is 'legally' where you live though.
I'm pretty sure there is no age stated in UK law.
NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) recommend no younger than 12.
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