Home Alone: Is Your Child Old Enough?
“Is my child old enough to stay home alone?” might be a question you’re asking yourself. Although the ages seem clear when they definitely cannot be at home by themselves and when they can be, there’s always that weird middle ground of determining if they’re ready (and if you’re ready).
Although most states do not have a legal age requirement for a child being left home alone, some do. In Maryland, the minimum age for a child to be left alone is 8-years-old, in Oregon it’s 10-years-old, and in Illinois “children” can’t be left alone until they’re 14-years-old.
According to Kid’s Health, you should try to avoid leaving your children home alone if they’re under the age of 10-years-old. At this time, they’re probably not responsible enough to handle those feared worse case scenarios. Some more obvious factors that could help your decision is recognizing your child’s physical and mental health.
A few things to consider:
Area: Just how the most important thing in real-estate is “location location location”, it’s pretty weighty when it comes to leaving your child alone. If you live in a crime inflicted area or off a busy road, are you confident in your child’s safety? Or, maybe you live in a nice suburb, where the houses are far apart and neighbors are like family.
Your child: Of course we love to think the best of our children and brag about them whenever we get the chance. But be honest, is your child obedient to the rules? Do they lack common sense? Are they wary of safety procedures? Are they the type to invite strangers into your home? Depending on how you answer some of those questions could help in making your decision.
You: There are a few more things you might want to consider on your end before leaving your child. If you’ve got prescription medication lying around, knives on the floor, matches on the counter, vodka in water bottles, it would be wise to put these out of your child’s easy reach.
Let it go: Are you a helicopter parent? If so, leaving your child home alone could be good for them! Establishing a sense of independence could build your child’s confidence and benefit them in all areas of life.
Test it out: So, if you’ve determined they could be left alone, do a test run. Go out somewhere close by where you can easily get home if necessary. Try to stay away for 30 minutes to an hour. When you return home to find your child safe and your home intact, talk to them about how it went and how they felt. Establish rules and go over safety precautions. Leave a list of phone numbers to call in case of an emergency.
Full disclosure, leaving them on their own does not mean they’re expert babysitters for your other children (that’s a whole other conversation).
It’s probably agreed that your judgment wouldn’t tell you leaving your 5 year old at home alone is a good idea. However, as a parent who knows their child, the point at when you can leave them alone might just come down to you and your kid. If you’re confident in their ability to take care of themselves, then maybe it’s time to ditch the baby sitter and pull out the fire extinguisher (just a precaution)!