After who knows how many years of little ones clinging to you round the clock, the thought of leaving them at home to get some time with your partner or just run errands in peace can be exhilarating. Or terrifying. Or both.
How do you know when it’s safe to leave your child home alone?
The reality is, there’s no one set rule. Some US states have laws on the books setting the minimum age a child can be left on their own. Elsewhere, the law is a bit vague. For example, the law in Queensland, Australia says kids under 12 can’t be left alone ‘for an unreasonable amount of time.’
The bottom line? You have to use your judgment. But there are some tips you can follow to know when your kid is ready.
Some kids mature faster than others, so it’s important to know your child and what they’re ready to handle. Here are some general recommendations by age:
It’s a definite no on leaving your kid at home when they’re this young. Children at this age require constant supervision. Even short errands are out of the question. If you leave the house, they need to come with you.
Kids at this age are more independent, but they’re not equipped to make sound decisions if there’s an emergency. Don’t start leaving them home on their own just yet. However, you can start preparing them for when they’re old enough to stay home alone, by giving them more responsibility and independence when you’re around and seeing how they respond.
This is the age many experts say you can start leaving kids home alone for short periods of time. In one survey of US social workers, a majority agreed that 12 was generally the right age to start. But there are a few things you need to consider:
Chances are you can let your child stay home for longer stretches at this point. But give them any more than they’re ready to handle. And don’t leave them home alone overnight.
By 10 or 11, some kids are capable of being unsupervised for short periods of time. Others may not feel comfortable on their own until they’re 12, 13, or older.
There are a few other factors to consider besides your child’s age:
You may be ready to leave your child at home for a bit, but there are a few important steps to take to make sure they’re ready for it:
Remember, every child is different. Be sure to go at their pace, starting small and gradually giving them more independence as they prove they can handle being on their own for short periods of time.
Leaving your child home alone for the first time can be exciting and terrifying all at once. Just remember: you’ve got this.
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