Friday, May 23, 2014

Kids Staying Home Alone...7 Points to Consider

This year we entered a glorious new season in our parenting.   

The age when my oldest is able to stay home alone for short periods and even babysit *some* of her younger siblings on occasion. 

It's wonderful and beautiful to be able to run to the grocery store or a quick errand without having to drag EVERYONE with me. 

I lot of people wonder when their child is old enough to stay home alone. I know I did.

Here are 7 guidelines/points to consider when deciding this important question. 

1. The Age of the Child...Most people say that maturity is more important than age...and it is. But, age is still important.   Some people may disagree and I know there are lots of people out there who remember being a latchkey kid in the 3rd grade, but I think a child should minimally be double-digits before you consider leaving them home alone.  To watch younger siblings, I think a child should be a bit older than ten...the exact age depends on the child and the children being watched.

2. The Maturity and Obedience of the Child. Is the child generally a rule follower?  Do they respect the rules? Are they impulsive?  Are they destructive?  Are they a risk-taker? Are they level-headed in an emergency?

When people worry about leaving kids home alone, the tend to worry about big risks.  What if there is a fire?  What if a bugler tries to break in?  What if someone gets sick?

But, those things really aren't all that likely to happen.  What is likely to happen is that kids get in trouble by seeing things on TV or the Internet that they shouldn't. So, before leaving a child home alone, you really need to feel confident that they will indeed follow the rules.   And, be very specific about what they can and can't do.  Can they play outside?  Cook? Use the computer? What can they do on the computer?  

3.Time of day? Most kids feel more comfortable staying home alone during the day than at night.    Heck..I feel more comfortable being alone during the day, than at night.   Also consider if they will be home alone during a meal time and be required to make their own meal?  Can they do this? 

4. How far away are the parents?  How long will they be gone?  With the invention of cell phones, most of us can be reached really easily.   It's still important to consider how far away you are going and how long you will be gone...taking into account unforeseen circumstances like traffic. Is there someone near by they can call for help?  This one is tricky...because a lot of us are really isolated and don't even really know our neighbors.   Thankfully with the invention of cell phones, constant contact, even when away, is much easier. 

5.  If watching younger siblings, consider the age of the sibling.  Personally...I wouldn't leave anyone under the age of 3 with anyone under the age of oh...16.  I reserve the right to change my mind on that, however.  Babies and toddlers need a special level of care and are prone to getting into more dangerous and destructive situations than older kids. My 6-year old isn't going to throw stuff in the toilet, try to drink dish detergent, need a diaper change or fall off a chair and bump his head.  My 1-year old is likely to do all those things..oftentimes within the span of only 15 minutes. So, I generally wouldn't leave a baby or toddler with anyone other than another adult or an older teenager. 

6.  If watching younger siblings....the temperament and maturity of the younger siblings. Older children who are especially impulsive, risk-takers or disobedient should probably only be left with people who can handle them...which may not be an older sibling, even if that older sibling can handle other, more obedient, quieter siblings.  You know your kids best, so if you know if one child is likely to give their older sibling a hard time....don't leave them. 

7. Your Neighborhood.  Most parents have rules about not answering the door.   Consider if it is likely or not for someone to come to the door.  Consider how safe your neighborhood is.  Do you have the kind of neighborhood where you regularly have solicitors?  Or is the UPS man the only one who who ever pays you a visit? Not that a neighborhood with people regularly coming by is bad, but it is something to consider. 

How old where your kids when you started leaving them home alone?  Is that a different age than when you, yourself did it?  What are your thoughts on it?  I'd love to hear them!

(Linking with Jen for 7QTF)
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  1. Also consider your local laws pertaining to the subject! :)

  2. Peter was almost 10 when I started letting him stay home alone for 5 minutes while I dropped his sister off at her piano lesson. Now that he's 11 1/2 I'll let them both stay alone for 30 minutes or so if I need to run somewhere real quick. I'm sure they would both be fine but I still get a little nervous.

  3. I remember the first day I was able to leave my oldest son home alone and leave his younger brother with him. My trip to the grocery store was very quiet!

  4. I've just started leaving my 10 1/2 year old home alone. He's not ready to babysit, but just having one less to bring to the store is huge!

  5. 10-12
    Oldest was closer to twelve. Second (a girl) was closer to 10 and had been used to being home with her older brother. Third (boy) is now 11 and stays home by himself for short periods very frequently. Problem is we don't have a home phone and he doesn't yet have his own phone. Until last week our exchange student was often home (though secluded in her room), now she's gone though. We are close to and friendly with our neighbors and he can text with his iPod.


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