No legal age limit - how old to leave children home alone? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 36 Old 08-22-2010, 09:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If your state had no legal minimum age at which a child can be home alone, at what age would you start allowing you children to stay home alone for short periods of time?

I'm talking about children who are responsible, have demonstrated their able to clearly understand and follow rules for answering phones, opening doors, know how to reach you etc...

I'm talking about a quick run to the neighborhood grocery store or some such. No more than 30 min or so. At what age would you start allowing short stays at home?
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#2 of 36 Old 08-22-2010, 10:03 PM
 
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Around 10 or so, under the conditions you've outlined.

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#3 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 12:26 AM
 
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I've done it with my kids when they were 9.
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#4 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 12:49 AM
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My oldest was 8 when he started seriously balking at going on errands. DS2 is a mama's boy and always liked tagging along, so he stayed home by himself at a later age.

I'm not very fearful of leaving kids alone for a little while, but I was a latchkey kid so maybe that's why. I'm almost 40, and remember when kids were allowed to play outside alone, roam the neighborhood, etc. Children are more capable than modern society seems to think.
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#5 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 01:06 AM
 
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My oldest is nine and I occaisionaly leave him home for short trips. I don't do it as often as he would like, but that's mostly because we live in Mexico and most of the trips he'd rather stay home for are ones across the border to San Diego. Even for a short trip, I don't feel comfortable being across an international border from him. I would leave my 7 yo home with him for the short trips, but she never wants to stay.
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#6 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 01:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My kids are 7 & 8.5 and they're starting to balk at having to run minor errands. I'm not ready to leave them yet. But, for example, tonight they were engrossed in a craft and I needed to run over to my mom's house 1 mile away. I would have been gone 10 minutes and they really wanted to stay at home and finish their craft. I didn't leave them but, for the first time, I gave it a minutes consideration.

I know they'd be fine. Heck, when I leave them on occasion with their 18 yo step brother, he spends all the time I'm gone in his room so they basically take care of themselves, call me if they have a question or need anything and just hang out reading or watching a show until I get back.
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#7 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 01:07 AM
 
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9 or 10.

I have actually told ds (9) this summer that he could stay home while we ran errands. He doesn't like to be alone, so as far as I can tell, he'll be about 35 before he stays home alone!

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#8 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 01:08 AM
 
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My daughter was 10 and my son was 6 when I started leaving them to walk around the block. I always brought my cell phone, and each trip around was maybe 10 minutes.

They are now 12 and 8, and I feel pretty comfortable with leaving them for about an hour if I'll be within a 10 min. drive. If I'm going across town or will be gone longer I would feel comfortable leaving them longer if my neighbors were home.
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#9 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 01:17 AM
 
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I was about 7 when my mom started leaving me home alone for short periods of time, if I recall correctly. Knowing my daughter, if there were no legal risks, I'd be comfortable leaving her alone for about 30 minutes when she hits 7. Not so sure about my son yet.
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#10 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 01:28 AM
 
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Our state doesn't have any laws about what age a child can be left alone. I was surprised when I read an article in the local news that said if a child under 16 is reported as being left home alone, the local police take it "very seriously". I guess my parents (and grandparents) would have been in all kinds of trouble.
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#11 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 01:37 AM
 
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My daughter is 7½. I don't know when I'd feel comfortable leaving her at home alone, but I can tell you that it's not anytime in the near future. My mom left me at home alone occasionally at that age. It scared me. I won't do that to her. (Plus, she's not as emotionally mature as I was at her age... I just don't think she'll be ready for a long while.)

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#12 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 02:08 AM
 
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Indiana doesn't have a law about minimum age to be left alone. Dd1 is 9 and I would probably be okay leaving her for a short time around age 10. Particularly if my friend (who lives right across the street) is home. Actually I end up leaving her and dd3 for about 5 minutes in the morning while I walk dd2 to school (we literally live right next to the school, it takes about 1 minute to walk to it). Dh works third shift and doesn't quite get home before I need to take dd2 to school. He's usually home before I get back from dropping her off.
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#13 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 03:29 AM
 
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probably now. my dd is almost 8. i leave her because i have a room mate who stays in his room and sometimes doesnt even know i am gone.

but starting at 6 i have left dd alone for 15 or 20 mins after letting our next door neighbour know. i did it maybe a handful of times in a year but i still did it. i always came back to find dd was exactly where i had left her forgotten that i had gone even though i had told her and asked her to check in with neighbour if scared. the first time i did it was because of a deadline thing and did DIDNOT want to go. absolutely not. so i thought i would try it for experiment and see what happens and it was ok. however dd is precocious and extremely independent.

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#14 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 07:24 AM
 
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DS is almost 12. He's been staying by himself for short periods for a couple of years. Once in a while I let DD (7) stay with him. 15-20 minutes tops for them to be together.

Over the course of this summer I have added more time he can stay alone. I'm comfortable with about 2 hours max with him alone now. I've also increased the time he and DD can be alone together to about 1.5 hours.

I started babysitting at 12, so I figure it's okay. The only thing I worry about is the two of them bickering/fighting while I'm gone. That hasn't really happened. I think they only fight in front of me!
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#15 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 08:35 AM
 
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I'd say at whatever age both you AND THEY are O.K. with being left alone and knowing that they can handle an emergency in a responsible manner... including the emergency that you might not come home (car accident en route, for example). If your child is old enough to realize, "Hey, mom said she'd be home in 20 minutes, and it's been an hour, I need to call her/call the place she went/call the police/call someone else" then they are probably old enough to be left alone. If there is a fire, and they know what to do, someone breaks in and they know what to do, someone gets hurt and they know what to do... they're probably old enough.

So, IMHO, it's not when they can handle the best-case scenario, but when they can handle the worst-case scenario.

Dd is 8.5 and she simply does not want that responsibility yet (and she is very independent and responsible... in fact responsible enough to know what she can and cannot handle).

ETA: If I had to look into my crystal ball and make a prediction, I'd say it will be about 11 or 12 for even the "short run to the store" situation, but of course everyone's MMV.
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#16 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 09:17 AM
 
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My oldest kids are 10 and 9 and I have left them a few times to go grocery shopping for about an hour. I'm not too concerned safety-wise but frankly I let them play on 2 different computers while I'm gone to stave off boredom which translates to "making trouble".

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#17 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 09:31 AM
 
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Hmm, I might let my oldest stay home for 10-20 minutes while I ran downtown to get something from the drug store, maybe when he's 9-10. But I don't know what our states age requirements are.

For longer periods of time, and for me going a further distance away, it would be more like 15+ yo.
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#18 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 11:28 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velochic View Post
So, IMHO, it's not when they can handle the best-case scenario, but when they can handle the worst-case scenario.
good point. good point. yeah exactly. being a single mom i was a little freaked out if something happened to me while i was at home. by the time dd was 4 she knew phone numbers, how to call 911, to go to neighbours (on both sides of us who had the phone numbers list too), had her own children's preprogrammed cell phone and what to do in case of fire and which tree to stand under and call her dad.

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#19 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 12:16 PM
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My oldest is 7.5 and I would feel totally comfortable leaving him home alone for a couple hours during the day, if I wasn't worried about the legal consequences. Probably at 8-9. My little sister and I stayed home alone for 2 hours a day when we were 7 and 5.
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#20 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 12:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by earthmama369 View Post
I was about 7 when my mom started leaving me home alone for short periods of time, if I recall correctly. Knowing my daughter, if there were no legal risks, I'd be comfortable leaving her alone for about 30 minutes when she hits 7. Not so sure about my son yet.
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Originally Posted by camracrazy View Post
Our state doesn't have any laws about what age a child can be left alone. I was surprised when I read an article in the local news that said if a child under 16 is reported as being left home alone, the local police take it "very seriously". I guess my parents (and grandparents) would have been in all kinds of trouble.
These! My brother and I were left in our own care a lot as kids. My parents worked nights and couldn't always afford a babysitter. Honestly, you do what you have to do.

I remember a guy coming to my class in 2nd or 3rd grade and talking about being left home alone. Most of us had been left alone at that point. He went over safety (not answering the door/phone, what do it in an emergency, how to recognize an emergency, etc...) Looking back I think, "Wow, times have changed" and that was only the early 90s.


My parents always outlined the do's and don'ts before leaving. We didn't have caller ID or an answering machine (it was a vmail service) so they even had a calling pattern so we'd know it was okay to answer the phone AND a secret knock incase they needed one of us to open the door. They even went over basic first aid with me (pressure to stop bleeding, don't move someone that is "sleeping" after a fall...) and we had activities planned out. (We'll watch the movies in THIS order and play the games in THAT order)

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#21 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 12:28 PM
 
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My DD is 9.5 and I think I'd be okay with leaving her for short amounts of time - like, 30 minutes tops. However, she isn't ready - and like velochic said, both parent and child need to be. She is responsiple and resourceful and even has her own cell phone, so I feel like she could handle an emergency situation and knows what is safe and what's not... but she completely balks at the idea, just in conversation, so I have a feeling it will be a few more years until she is ready to stay home alone. I'm guessing she'll be 11-12 or so.

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#22 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 03:58 PM
 
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I think back to my childhood and am amazed...I was babysitting my younger siblings starting at age 9...and by age 11 I had fliers out to the neighbors and was babysitting all the time for neighbors and kids from church.
Anyway, for my DD, I would think its depends on how responsible she is...probably 10 or 11...

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#23 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 04:07 PM
 
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My own was about 8.
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#24 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 04:08 PM
 
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When I was 14 & my sister was 13, our parents started leaving us home alone for the weekend when they went to our cabin. It was great. (this is the same woman who refuses to leave my 9 & 5 year old at home for 15 minutes for her to drop dh & I at the hospital nearby)I'm not sure my oldest would be up for that when he gets to be that age, but he has anxiety issues and his siblings are much younger.

I've left the older at home for 10-15 minutes to run across the street to the store. I You can literally look out our window to see it, but I always take the baby with me. I don't see how it's any different than letting them run around playing outside without supervision. I also left the older 2 out playing for a couple hours between when my husband got taken by ambulance to hospital & when my mom could get here, but I did go down to talk to the mom of a couple of their friends to ask her to to keep an eye out & let her know I'd left the house unlocked for them.

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#25 of 36 Old 08-23-2010, 06:25 PM
 
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I'd say 12. (but I'm very careful)

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#26 of 36 Old 08-24-2010, 03:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
starting at 6 i have left dd alone for 15 or 20 mins after letting our next door neighbour know. i did it maybe a handful of times in a year but i still did it. i always came back to find dd was exactly where i had left her forgotten that i had gone even though i had told her and asked her to check in with neighbour if scared. the first time i did it was because of a deadline thing and did DIDNOT want to go. absolutely not. so i thought i would try it for experiment and see what happens and it was ok. however dd is precocious and extremely independent.
Me too. I've been leaving DD, now almost 6, alone for the past year for 15-20 minute dog walks. She knows how to unlock the doors & get out of the house if she needs to, and we've done drills where she proves she knows how to call my cell phone (which she's done a couple of times for funny "emergencies" that mostly involved online game problems). She, however, is also precocious, mature, sensible and confident. If she didn't want me to leave her, I wouldn't. However, she is fine alone for a little bit, and I don't want to drag her away from something she is engrossed in just to walk the dogs every time.

I agree with the PP who said the question is the kid prepared for a worst case scenario. We have run through many and she knows what to do. She also just is good at making a reasonable plan in unexpected circumstances, reasoning from the principles she knows. (E.g., only leave the house if there is an emergency IN the house; call 911 if anyone but your family is trying to gain entry.)

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#27 of 36 Old 08-24-2010, 12:58 PM
 
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8-9.

My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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#28 of 36 Old 08-24-2010, 01:03 PM
 
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I would say 8 or 9.

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#29 of 36 Old 08-24-2010, 01:09 PM
 
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#30 of 36 Old 08-24-2010, 01:26 PM
 
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Probably around 10-12, depending on the child, for the amount of time you said.

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