Home Alone: How Young Is Too Young?

Every parent must decide when the time is right to let children stay home alone. If your family includes two parents who work, your children may end up being what is known as latch-key kids, or children who stay home by themselves after school and until parents come home. Your decision to leave your children home alone will depend on many factors. Here are a few. 

What is the Law?

Some states have legal guidelines as to when children may be left alone. Imom,com lists these rules by state. Maryland and North Carolina require that children be 8 years old before they can be left without supervision. The age is 10 in Oregon and 14 in Illinois. 

No other states have laws about this, but there are some states that offer suggestions. Georgia and South Carolina suggest that children be 8 years old before being left alone, and North Dakota's suggestion is 9. Tennessee and Washington put their suggested age at 10, and Nebraska's is 11. The age recommended by Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Wisconsin and Wyoming is 12. 

Other states do not have laws or suggestions about when kids can stay alone. 

Is the Environment Safe?

One important factor you must consider is the environment where you will be leaving your child. Letting your child stay home alone in a safe neighborhood where there are adult neighbors or friends near by in case of an emergency is very different from letting your child stay in a crime ridden neighborhood where there are no trusted adults available. 

How Mature is Your Child?

You know your child better than anyone, and that's why you are the person most capable of making this decision. Can your child be trusted to come straight home from school, lock the door and stay inside until you get there? Will your child be tempted to leave the house with friends or engage in dangerous behaviors while you are at work? 

Some children are ready to take care of themselves at 7 years old or even younger, while some teenagers cannot be trusted to supervise themselves. You must take a hard look at your child's level of responsibility before deciding if staying home alone is a good idea. 

Does Your Child Understand Emergency Procedures?

Child Welfare Information Gateway suggests asking lots of questions before determining if you will leave your child home alone. They state that children should know their full name, address and phone number and have a plan in place in case of an emergency. 

Conduct a trial run with your child and role play emergency situations so that you are sure your child knows what to do.

Are Rules Established?

Before leaving your kids by themselves, be sure they understand your expectations. It is a good idea to make a list of rules, review it together and post it somewhere in the house. These are some rules you might consider. 

  • Keep the door locked. Do not open it for someone you don't know. 
  • Call me at work when you get home.
  • Do not allow your friends to come inside. 
  • Do not use the stove.

Is Your Child Comfortable?

Don't forget to ask your children if they are comfortable staying home by themselves. Some children are fearful of being left alone, and you might not realize that anxiety exists. Be sure to have an open conversation with your kids and encourage them to express their feelings. 

Leaving kids home alone for the first time is something that all parents must face. If you and your child are well prepared, this rite of passage will be a successful one. Check out sites like http://www.akarrasel.com/ for more information.