At what age do you let your child stay home alone? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 05:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I realize this depends on the child and the situation. But on average, I'm trying to get a sense of whether I'm overly cautious. My DD1 is 9yo and in 4th grade and I've never left her home alone. She has a lot of anxiety, so maybe she wouldn't be ready, but on the other hand, I feel she would be helped by some mild forms of independence. I have no idea what the norm is. Alone for 5 min if I walk around the block? 10 min to drive to the drugstore? just wondering.

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#2 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 08:58 AM
 
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This really is a "it all depends on the child" thing.

 

Our son is 10. We started leaving him home alone for 10-15 minutes at age 9. Last spring, just after he turned 10, he took a lovely course from the Red Cross entitled something like "When I'm in Charge". I'm now comfortable leaving him for about 2 hours (though an hour is more comfortable for me). We have very clear guidelines: No friends in, he has to stay home. No using the stove or anything sharp. Don't answer the door. Don't tell anyone we're not home. We practiced calling my cell and dh's cell.

 

He's a very cautious kid with a tendency toward anxiety. I have every faith that he'll follow the rules to the letter. For a child who was more "act first, think later" I might wait until they were older.

 

As for when, the first time I left ds home alone there was something his sister wanted to go to at school and he REALLY didn't want to go. Dh was at a meeting, and so ds either had to stay home alone or go to the Family Fun Night that he hated. That encouraged him to try staying home. If he hadn't been so motivated, he wouldn't have tried it. (As it was he was only home alone for 30 minutes, as dh came home from his meeting as early as he could.) So,  your daughter, if she's a bit anxious, may need some pretty high personal motivation. You might need to wait  until your daughter is motivated. You can start small with a walk around the block.

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#3 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 09:48 AM
 
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Here's the law regarding leaving kids home alone by state.

 

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

 

 

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#4 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 11:07 AM
 
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My kids were little in Georgia. The law does state that 8 to 10 years may be left for a short period of time. But to leave siblings alone together, the oldest was supposed to be 12 (babysitting age). So that's what we did. They stayed home alone separately for short errands but never alone together until the oldest was 12... and could be "in charge". I'd also had her take the Red Cross babysitting courses by then, too.
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#5 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 03:21 PM
 
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It's funny, my sister and I were left home alone as kids, my sister was 8 and I was 6, and because I got home first I was often home alone for 10-30 minutes before my sister's bus arrived.  I guess that's pretty nuts thinking back.

 

I would not be happy about my son being left home alone until he was 9 or 10 probably.  I don't know...but definitely not yet...what were my parents thinking?!


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#6 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 03:29 PM
 
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I remember getting up and getting myself dressed, fed and to the bus stop without my mom there.  And I would come home, do my homework and hang out til my mom got home.  I was probably left alone a total of 3 hours a day.  And I was 8. 

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#7 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 03:44 PM
 
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I would like to add I can leave my 8 and 6 yr old alone for 10 to 15 minutes.  I've done it when they didn't want to go to the post office and DH has done it when they didn't want to go with him to the gas station.  Both are less than a few minutes away.

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#8 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 05:03 PM
 
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Oh, about 26 or 27.........

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#9 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 05:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for these great replies, plus the legal info. our state does not have an age limit. For myself, I don't really know that she's ready, and i'm not really comfortable with it yet. but we have neighbors who are home alone at 9, and other parents with the attitude that since we were all left alone young, they should be fine and we're just overprotective. It's good to see a more balanced approach with parents waiting a little. I think for now, we may start letting her stay home alone if we want to go for a walk around the block, and she is whining not wanting to go. it would be short, we'd be close, and she'd be motivated. thanks for the feedback!

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#10 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 05:53 PM
 
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Oh, about 26 or 27.........


Right after they get their own drivers' licenses.

 


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#11 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 06:09 PM
 
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well, my kid is still a baby so obv. does not stay home by herself. :) but when I was a kid I was allowed to stay home by myself at age 9. I was typically by myself for about an hour or so right after school while my mom was getting my sister from school. We weren't allowed to both stay home together until middle school age.

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#12 of 37 Old 11-06-2011, 06:21 PM
 
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My DD1 is 8. I started letting her stay home for short periods this summer while I am in the neighborhood. We live 7 miles out of town in a subdivision, there is nothing around so I'm not about to run in and do a short errand but she can stay home while we take a walk or I will go to a friend's house down the street. She goes to the playground in our subdivision alone (very rural area here) so to me it isn't any different. DD1 does ahave anxiety issues about being alone but is fine during the day time. She knows how to call us and is very good about following all rules. 


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#13 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 12:17 AM
 
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we started at about 6 or was it 7. 

 

i had errands to run and dd just DID NOT WANT TO GO. 

 

so i'd leave her for 15 -20 mins. i'd tell my neighbour and go. when i'd get back sometimes dd didnt even remember i was gone. at most times she was still doing what i had left her doing. 

 

but this is my very cautious child. who follows the safety rules to a t. she also had a good idea of what to do in an emergency and how to be safe at home.

 

plus she has been bugging me to leave her alone since she was 4. 

 

it is interesting. we didnt really leave her alone till she was 8. that is for an hour. after making sure our neighbors were home. we have gone from 1 to 3 hours (at dd's insistence). and she did fine. however she realized that 3 hours was too long for her. however i did the 3 hours for her to experience that 3 hours was indeed a long time. she can handle 2 but not 3. however not once was i afraid she would do something bad. 

 

however now that she is into mystery books she cant be left alone for even 5 mins. her pretend mind is scaring her too much for her to be left alone. she hasnt been alone in a few months. 


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#14 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 04:27 AM
 
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Wow, I guess I'm up-tight about this... My son is 8 and there is no WAY I would leave him at home alone... more because of his personality than anything else though. I just don't see good things happening from that. We started leaving our step-daughter home alone when she was about 12, I think. My kids actually beg to go on most errands with me so I doubt it will be before 12 or so before I leave them home alone. I'm a worry-wart and perhaps a bit over-protective. I'm okay with admitting that.

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#15 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 05:39 AM
 
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Well, at age 6 or 7 we let DS walk home from school without us (it was 2 blocks away), and the neighbours thought that was pretty scandalous. 

 

At about 8 or 9, I left DS for a few minutes while I dropped the other kid off at school (the same one), and he was home not feeling well. It made more sense than making him get out of bed, dressed and dragged out on a cold day. 

 

By 9, I was pretty comfortable letting them play unsupervised and leaving them alone home. 

 

We had a lot of discussion and instruction on safety, appropriate activities etc. etc. There was also a gradual building of responsibility and trust before we got to the point where I would leave them on their own. They had to demonstrate that they were ready. They weren't impulsive types, so I didn't have to worry too much about that. If they were anxious about staying alone, I would have respected those emotions and not left them. 

 

By 12, they had both completed Babysitter's Courses and were ready to babysit smaller children. For the most part, the course just went over information they had already covered with us and reinforced it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#16 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 06:59 AM
 
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I have left ds alone starting recently- He is extremely cautious- extremely and has a cell phone. I have left him for around 20-30 min at the most. DD i would never ever ever leave alone at this age.... she is 5 now but totally into everything and will be even at 8-10-12 I suppose.

she thinks she can do everything on her own.

I leave him for things like going to pick his sister up, running to gas station.

Great thread.

Totally depends on the kid.


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#17 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 07:46 AM
 
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When I mentioned this thread to my husband, he shook his head and started to (somewhat painfully) reminisce on all the things he did as a kid when he was by himself.  He'd get into all sorts of mischief when he was younger, and when he was older he said the only difference between him and the kids who got arrested was that he didn't get caught.  I know that second thought is a step or three away from the intent of the question.  Still, like some pp's have said, depends on the kid.  BTW, his mom (75) still has noooo idea the kinds of things he did around the house and around the neighborhood.


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#18 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 08:08 AM
 
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When I mentioned this thread to my husband, he shook his head and started to (somewhat painfully) reminisce on all the things he did as a kid when he was by himself.  He'd get into all sorts of mischief when he was younger.


My hubby waxes poetic about this sometimes, too. However, he can also tell you the day that his younger brother and he fell off a concrete wall and literally busted their scalps open. Bleeding profusely, they knocked on a few doors until someone helped them and called their mom home from work.


This was in the 1970's... I bet even fewer folks are home during the day now. But I guess some kids now have cell phones by age 8.
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#19 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 08:23 AM
 
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My children are 7 and I haven’t left them home alone.  They play outside while I am inside or vice versa.  They can ride their bikes/scooters around the street, which makes one large circle, if there are two or more children.  I am not sure when I would be comfortable leaving them alone while I do errands and they have not asked to be left home alone.

 

I started babysitting at 14, but at that age my mom still hired a sitter for me and my siblings (aged 12 and 10) because she didn’t think I should watch my siblings – not sure completely of her reasoning since I was watching other people’s children.

 

For those of you who babysat at 12…I would not hire a sitter that young.  My sister’s son is 11 and she left him home with his 8yo sister for the first time this summer while she ran around their block with her 2yo.  Maybe we are more paranoid/fearful than most.  My daughter has epilepsy so I also worry that she will have a seizure.  But even without the epilepsy, I would worry something could happen.  Of course we all know stories but there are a several tragedies that touched people my family knew and that is most likely shaping our decisions even though the odds of something bad happening are unlikely.

 

 

 

 

 

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#20 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 01:29 PM
 
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Mine was seven, and I was leaving her home for 20 minutes at a time if I had to....

 

By 8, I was trying to do it more regularly, and by 11 I was leaving her home for an hour or so.  By 13, she was babysitting the neighbor kids.

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#21 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 02:00 PM
 
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For those of you who babysat at 12…I would not hire a sitter that young.  Of course we all know stories but there are a several tragedies that touched people my family knew and that is most likely shaping our decisions even though the odds of something bad happening are unlikely.

yup yup! personal experience makes a huge difference.

 

however when i look at babysitters i dont look at the age but the ability. my neighbors 10 year old i would totally leave my dd with even if my dd was 5 years old. i trust him over other adults too. plus he comes from a large extended family. he is the only and misses having siblings. so he just loves kids and is the favourite cousin. and my dd's fav. friend. right across the street the 14 year old. nope. wouldnt trust her to watch my 9 year old. she'd get my dd into trouble and my dd would feel pressured trying to do what's right and what's kind.


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#22 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 02:39 PM
 
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I started babysitting the neighbor's kids when I was 11.  I was a latch key kid since I was 6, so I'd had lots of verbal training in emergency issues, but then when I was 13 I took the Red cross certification course. 

 

That being said I have never hired a sitter under the age of 17.

 

I am thinking of maybe using my friend's 14 yr old daughter next week, but we won't be going far, and she will have both our cellphones and her parents' cellphones handy, and she will be really cheap because we are going out with her parents. 

 

I think when people hired me to sit, in retrospect, it was 80% because I charged a fee that was reasonable (5-10 dollars an hour in New York City) and 20% because I was a trustworthy responsible teenager from their church or their building.  It didn't hurt that I loved playing games with their kids, was always doing artsy stuff with them, and when they came home the kids were asleep and I was usually doing my homework rather than making out with my boyfriend.


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#23 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 04:23 PM
 
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Hmm, why are parents these days not letting their kids stay home alone as young as in the past? With the way I grew up, I can't even imagine being unable to leave a 9-year-old home alone for 15 minutes, unless (s)he has some kind of special needs. What's changed so much in 15 years? I figured it'd be easier to leave kids home alone nowadays since it's easier to get in touch with each other (cell phones) and there're more entertaining things to do safely indoors (video games, etc).
 

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My hubby waxes poetic about this sometimes, too. However, he can also tell you the day that his younger brother and he fell off a concrete wall and literally busted their scalps open. Bleeding profusely, they knocked on a few doors until someone helped them and called their mom home from work.

This was in the 1970's... I bet even fewer folks are home during the day now. But I guess some kids now have cell phones by age 8.


Regardless of age, I definitely wouldn't leave a minor home alone without a phone. It could be a home phone though. Or a "family" cell phone that doesn't officially belong to the kid.

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#24 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 05:31 PM
 
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Hmm, why are parents these days not letting their kids stay home alone as young as in the past? With the way I grew up, I can't even imagine being unable to leave a 9-year-old home alone for 15 minutes, unless (s)he has some kind of special needs. What's changed so much in 15 years? I figured it'd be easier to leave kids home alone nowadays since it's easier to get in touch with each other (cell phones) and there're more entertaining things to do safely indoors (video games, etc).
 


Regardless of age, I definitely wouldn't leave a minor home alone without a phone. It could be a home phone though. Or a "family" cell phone that doesn't officially belong to the kid.



I don't let my dd stay home alone because I had a bad experience as a child and would never want to have my dd go through the same thing.  I can't speak for all people, but there is a lot of fear about bad things happening to kids out there and kids seem to be doing just fine not being home alone so I can understand why more people aren't jumping to the ways of the past.

 

Our society also places a lot more value on kids than it seems to have done in the past so that may also be part of why some people don't have their kids home alone.  I grew up walking myself and my little brother home from the time I was eight and wandering the neighborhood and the adjoining streets with other kids from the time I was three.   It wasn't because my mom wanted a wonderful independent experience for me and my brother though, she was tired of us and wanted us out of the house.  I don't look back on my experience in a positive way so I am not choosing to repeat the past as a parent.

 

As for the original question, I am going to stick with the recommendations on the website about latchkey kids.  I think that twelve is a good age for being home completely alone.

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#25 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 05:58 PM
 
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As for the original question, I am going to stick with the recommendations on the website about latchkey kids.  I think that twelve is a good age for being home completely alone.

i kinda find it funny. at 12 you can be a baby sitter. but then you have never been alone. how does that work, ya know?

 

actually perhaps not here but in general it is far more common to leave kids alone at home than not. however not completely alone. there is always a neighbour who watches out. in fact one of the 4th grade students at dd's school used to come to school by herself taking public transportation. there are other kids where the parents drop them off at a public transport point and then pick them up from there. 

 

i am at school and there is this unsaid acceptance that if your kid is ok and there is a neighbor around, its ok to leave your kids alone. 

 

i've seen that all over the city here. 

 

i remember seeing 10 year olds as latch key kids. i wasnt even a parent and wasnt aware of any information. i'd see the local neighborhood gma keep an eye on the kids getting home and then watch out for the parents getting home. if the kids needed anything they'd come over to ask that person. where i live right now, i dont see that. but in many apartment kinda neighborhood, within gated community or where you have to be buzzed in, i have seen kids left alone. however at all those times i wasnt shocked or wigged out. because it seemed to work out well. there was more of a community feel to that environment. and those kids would be between the ages of 5 to 10.

 

for many they had no options. they had to work yet their son was recovered but not over the hump. he needed a day more of rest - which usually is laying watching tv or doing some crafty activity. the neighbor would check on him every hour. 

 

seeing them i would not say its a question of caring more so you dont leave them alone. its more of a survival in most cases. and lack of choices. the parents could choose between being homeless and being with their kids or have them home alone with someone keeping an eye on them and they go to work. 


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#26 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 06:08 PM
 
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Hmm, why are parents these days not letting their kids stay home alone as young as in the past? With the way I grew up, I can't even imagine being unable to leave a 9-year-old home alone for 15 minutes, unless (s)he has some kind of special needs. What's changed so much in 15 years? I figured it'd be easier to leave kids home alone nowadays since it's easier to get in touch with each other (cell phones) and there're more entertaining things to do safely indoors (video games, etc).
 

Hmmm..... I think a lot of bad things happened back then as well.  I grew up a latch key kid, and, hmmm, fires on the living room carpet, being nearly kidnapped on the way home from school near the house and with nobody home, fights between my big sisters one including the kitchen knife, nearly choking to death.  And that's just off the top of my head.  As for being sent out the door until dinner without supervision, well one great-uncle drowned as a 2yo being supervised by his "big" brother and an uncle nearly-drowned at the same age (again, unsupervised outside), aggressive adults, nearly gotten run over by a train.  

 

This was all back in the early- mid- 70's.  Yeah, parents were less concerned, but then again a lot of s**t happened, too, because of it.  So, our fears might have gone too far in the other direction, but they are definitely not unfounded.

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#27 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 07:26 PM
 
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i kinda find it funny. at 12 you can be a baby sitter. but then you have never been alone. how does that work, ya know?

 

actually perhaps not here but in general it is far more common to leave kids alone at home than not. however not completely alone. there is always a neighbour who watches out. in fact one of the 4th grade students at dd's school used to come to school by herself taking public transportation. there are other kids where the parents drop them off at a public transport point and then pick them up from there. 

 

i am at school and there is this unsaid acceptance that if your kid is ok and there is a neighbor around, its ok to leave your kids alone. 

 

i've seen that all over the city here. 

 

i remember seeing 10 year olds as latch key kids. i wasnt even a parent and wasnt aware of any information. i'd see the local neighborhood gma keep an eye on the kids getting home and then watch out for the parents getting home. if the kids needed anything they'd come over to ask that person. where i live right now, i dont see that. but in many apartment kinda neighborhood, within gated community or where you have to be buzzed in, i have seen kids left alone. however at all those times i wasnt shocked or wigged out. because it seemed to work out well. there was more of a community feel to that environment. and those kids would be between the ages of 5 to 10.

 

for many they had no options. they had to work yet their son was recovered but not over the hump. he needed a day more of rest - which usually is laying watching tv or doing some crafty activity. the neighbor would check on him every hour. 

 

seeing them i would not say its a question of caring more so you dont leave them alone. its more of a survival in most cases. and lack of choices. the parents could choose between being homeless and being with their kids or have them home alone with someone keeping an eye on them and they go to work. 


I think it is probably fairly easy to guess that I wouldn't have my dd babysitting at twelve even if she could stand to be near young children for more than a few minutes at a time.  I don't think kids babysitting that young is very common and I coming from the experience of being a young babysitter I also think that is a good trend. 

 

I don't think it is always a case of caring or not caring.  I do know that in my mother's case it was a case of being burnt out and not wanting us around. We weren't at risk for being homeless.  I am sure there are people who truly can't miss a day of work and do have to choose between losing their job and leaving their child home alone, but I don't think that accounts for the majority of children who are left home alone. 

 

I don't think early babysitting or being left home alone are going to cause long lasting damage (barring the rare horrible incident) but I also don't see anything positive about it based on my experiences so I will avoid putting my dd in those situations.  This may be going too far towards sheltering but I really think that is much better than going too far towards neglect.

 

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#28 of 37 Old 11-07-2011, 11:07 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyllya View Post

Hmm, why are parents these days not letting their kids stay home alone as young as in the past? With the way I grew up, I can't even imagine being unable to leave a 9-year-old home alone for 15 minutes, unless (s)he has some kind of special needs. What's changed so much in 15 years? I figured it'd be easier to leave kids home alone nowadays since it's easier to get in touch with each other (cell phones) and there're more entertaining things to do safely indoors (video games, etc)
 

I feel the opposite...In my experience people leave their children home alone younger now than when I was little in the 60's and 70's.   Mostly because more of the mothers work and the children are home from school alone now.  My mother went to work when I was in 5th grade and hired a sitter for the after school hours until my dad arrived home.  From my childhood, I can only think of one neighbor family who did not have a sitter if they worked...the kids in that family went inside and were not allowed outside until the parents arrived home...which is when the rest of us went in for dinner.  Also, people are more transient and may not know their neighbors well enough to ask them to watch their children.  If a parent had to leave for 15 minutes and couldn't take the child they would normally send their child to a neighbor's house or have a sitter run over. My mom, as most of the mothers in our neighborhood, had and older woman, a highschooler, and many of her friends in the neighborhood she could call when she needed someone to watch us.  I think of my neighborhood now, I've lived in this house 19 years, and I would trust my neighbors to watch my children but I would feel like I was imposing if I asked.  Most of the teenagers and parents are so busy and always running around. 

 

 

edited to add...I just re-read Cyllya's post and realized she is speaking of the 1990's and I am speaking of the 1960-70's.  So...the trend may have gone back and forth over that time period.  And, of course, type of neighborhood (rural, urban, population, etc) also play a part in this.

 

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#29 of 37 Old 11-08-2011, 10:01 AM
 
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Wow, the age in my state according to that link is 14!


Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (14) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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#30 of 37 Old 11-08-2011, 10:17 AM
 
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This is what my state (NY) has to say about age appropriateness (in the link cited above).  They don't set a minimum age, but I agree with their summarization below.  I bolded the last sentence because I think it is particularly relevant. 

At what age is it okay to leave my children home alone?

OCFS is often asked questions regarding the appropriate age to leave a child alone, or what age is appropriate to allow a child to begin babysitting. There are no straightforward answers to these questions. All children develop at their own rate, and with their own special needs and abilities. Some children are responsible, intelligent, and independent enough to be left alone at 12 or 13 years of age. Likewise, there are some teenagers who are too irresponsible or who have special needs that limit their ability to be safe if they are left alone.
Parents and guardians need to make intelligent, reasoned decisions regarding these matters.

Below there are some items for these decision-makers to consider before leaving a child alone. Be aware, this is just the beginning of issues to consider. It is not an all-inclusive checklist to guarantee intelligent and reasoned decision-making:

  • Consider the child: How mature is the child? How comfortable is the child with the circumstances? What has the child done in the past to show you he/she is able to take on this kind of responsibility?
  • Consider the child’s knowledge and ability: Does the child know how and when to contact emergency help? Is the child able to prepare food for him/herself? Are there hazards to the child in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, a stove or oven?
  • Consider the circumstances: Where will the child be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone?

These same questions should be asked when considering whether a child is old enough to baby-sit. However, when considering a child as an adequate baby sitter, you must evaluate these factors for both the potential baby sitter as well as the needs of the child or children who will be cared for by the baby sitter. A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.


"Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." Charles Lamb.
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