At some point, you will no longer have to hire a baby sitter for your children every time you leave your home. For many parents, this is very liberating (and cost-effective). However, before you leave your child home alone, there are a number of things you need to be aware of.
So when are your children old enough to be left home alone?
When they are legally able
Laws regarding what age children can be left alone vary from state to state and sometimes even county to county. In addition, some states don’t even have laws regarding how old a child should be; instead, they go by “suggested ages” and allow the parents to use their judgment. In some states, the legal age is as young as eight, and in others it is as old as ten or eleven. So the first thing you need to take into consideration before allowing your child to stay home alone is whether they are even legally able.
Keep in mind as well, if you have more than one child, there are also laws regarding how old the oldest can be without needing a babysitter or supervisor for the younger child. Some states say that children under eight need a sitter of at least thirteen years of age to care for them. So if you have a two-year-old and a nine-year-old, you legally couldn’t leave the older child to care for the younger one, no matter how responsible he or she is.
When they know who to contact and what to say in an emergency
It doesn’t take long for a fire to start, a child to choke, or any other number of emergencies to occur. For that reason, a child is old enough to stay home alone when he is able to call 911 in an emergency as well know when to call, how to get a hold of you if necessary, and what to do in the event of a fire or medical emergency.
Your child should also know what to do if someone calls asking for a parent (never tell the person on the other line that they are home alone), what to do if someone comes to the door (don’t answer it), and so forth.
When you feel comfortable knowing you can leave them alone and they will be fine.
A child’s emotional maturity is often a more important factor than his or her age when it comes to staying home alone. If you can’t think of your child staying home alone without picturing him or her trying a daredevil type stunt or getting into things that are off-limits, maybe he’s not quite ready to be home alone. In addition, if you have more than one child and they are constantly fighting, you might not want to leave them alone either.
However, a child who is mature and responsible, who is capable of entertaining him or herself in a safe manner, and who knows what to do or who to call in the event of an emergency, is probably capable of being able to stay home alone with no problem.
Letting your child stay home alone is a big step for both the parents and the children. The above tips will help you determine whether your child is old enough to be left home alone.