Letting your child stay home alone is a big step for both parents and children. For parents, it means their children are getting older and more responsible, and it means they no longer have to take their children with them or find a sitter if they want to go somewhere. For kids, it provides a sense of responsibility and pride as they prove to their parents they are mature enough to stay home alone.
Before you allow your child to stay home alone, consider the following tips, which will help you to determine when someone is old enough (or mature enough) to be left home alone:
The child is legally old enough.
In most states, this is eight or nine years old; however, each state has a different law when it comes to legal age to be home alone. Check with the state to see if your child is old enough; no matter how responsible he or she may be, if your child is too young by law to be alone, it’s not worth risking the trouble that could result were there an accident in the home. In addition, many states have laws that state someone of a certain age (usually twelve or thirteen) must be present in the home if there are children under the legal age to be alone, meaning that you’ll need a babysitter still (even if you have a child who is old enough to be alone) if there are younger children in the house.
The child knows what to do in an emergency.
Your child should know to dial 911 in an emergency. In addition, he or she should be able to know how to get a hold of his parents, whether it’s at work or on a cell phone. He should also be able to state his name, address, and how to get to his house if he needs to call 911. In addition, your child should also know what to do and who to call if there is a fire.
You trust your child.
If you have kids who are technically old enough to stay home alone, follow your gut instincts when it comes to deciding whether or not you can trust them. If you have amateur daredevils or kids always looking for the next (and often unsafe) adventure, it might not be a good idea to leave them home alone. However, responsible kids who meet the above requirements, who know what is off limits and respect that, and who can keep themselves entertained are usually fine alone. When it comes down to it, no one knows your child better than you, so trust your instincts.
If you feel your child is ready, consider testing him or her by leaving them alone while you run an errand or go for a walk. If you come back to utter chaos, chances are good you might want to wait awhile. You can begin leaving them alone for longer periods then. Make sure your children call and check in with you at certain times; this is a good way to gauge responsibility.
These are just a few tips that should help you decide whether or not your child is old enough or mature enough to stay home alone.