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What Age is it OK to Leave Kids Home Alone?

Posted by Lisa LaGrou May 2, 2012 OCM Blog

altThe days of outings with kids consisted largely of seat-belting into car seats, slow walking children, strollers, frequent bathroom breaks, whining kids, hungry kids, and plenty of extra steps that had trips taking twice as long as they could have if done solo.

 

The timing happens simultaneously and with great relief when children prefer not to tag along, and parents prefer to just go by themselves.

But, at what age is it OK for parents to leave their kids home alone?

My son tired of trips to the store when he was only 7. He begged to stay home by himself with his 5-year old sister and promised to hold down the fort. Really? At seven, this kid was going to be in charge? I don’t think so. I had to explain that he wasn’t ready. And, at the same time, I wondered when he would be.

I used to think there was a designated age that was the “legal” age for a child to be left home alone, and that parents would be taken away by social services if caught leaving their kids home before that. But, in actuality, there is no law. It’s up to the parents’ discretion.

So now parents are left with the “judgement call.” It’s up to us to decide when our kids are mature enough, responsible enough, and wise enough to handle being left home alone.

My son is now 9, going on 10. And, my daughter is almost 8. My husband and I have made quick trips to a nearby store and left them home. We’ve prepared them with our cell phone numbers and a list of rules. You know, the usual: “don’t answer the door, don’t tell anyone your parents aren’t home, call 9-1-1 in case of an emergency,” etc. We seem OK with the idea of leaving our kids alone at home if we’re not far from home, it’s not late at night and our trips clock in at under an hour-and-a-half.

But, in all honesty, they are still not adults and things can still happen. So, at what point do you feel comfortable leaving your kids home alone? Is there a specific age when they are most ready?

I appreciate the community programs that offer training for kids to stay home alone. They discuss topics such as walking home safely, key responsibility, securing the house, answering the phone, safe choices and emergency procedures. The classes is designed for kids ages 10-14. This is a nice place to start.

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I suppose it really does depend on the child… As parents, we need to assess our situation, know our kids, and prepare the best we can. I guess I had always thought there was a magical age requirement, like a weight/age requirements for car seats, for leaving your kids home alone. I guess I’m stuck trying to figure it out for myself.

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