Daycare vs Staying Home Alone

Is My Child Old Enough to Stay Home Alone?

As children grow up, parents begin to wonder if their child can stay home by themselves. After all, child care can be a lot of trouble and expense. And during the summer months, parents may really wish their child could be home alone for at least a little while.

Of course, all children are different, and some kids are ready to be left alone at a much younger age than others. Your child’s maturity level, home environment, geographical location, and other factors all play into the issue. And there are also certain laws on the books about this as well. So age can be determined in a somewhat general way, but there are other considerations than your child’s age.

So to answer the question of whether or not your child is old enough to stay home alone, it’s important to look at various factors.

1. Your Child’s Age – How Important Is It?

First, look into your local laws. You must follow those guidelines first and foremost.

And there are some obvious things in the age department that can determine how independent your child is. For example, it’s never okay to leave a baby, toddler, preschooler, or kindergartener home alone, even for a few minutes. Once your child gets to gradeschool age, though, it gets to be more of a gray area.

2. How Long?

How many hours your child will be home by themselves is another key thing. Children in gradeschool – the “latchkey kids” as we came to call them – may be fine to be at home for an hour or two. But leaving a gradeschool-age child at home alone all day is not advisable. A general guideline is, the younger the child, the shorter the time home alone.

3. How Safe Is Your Neighborhood?

If you live in a high-crime area without any trusted friends or relatives nearby, then leaving your child home alone at a young age may not be a good idea at all. A quieter neighborhood with family down the street is another matter altogether. So your location has a lot to do with your decision.

4. Evaluate Your Child

In addition to age, your child’s personal character traits have a lot to do with whether or not they are ready to be left alone. Here are some things to look for and ask:

* Does your child listen and take directions well? If so, he or she may be mature enough to be left alone a bit. He will need to know how to follow directions when you’re not there.
* Does your child tend to panic or be anxious? High-anxiety children may not be good candidates for being home alone.
* Is he able to fix food for himself?
* How does your child feel about being home alone?
* Has your child exhibited responsible behavior in the past?
* Can he make independent decisions?

5. Evaluate Your Home

Your home will need to be safe for your child to be left alone. For example, if your home is heated by firewood and it’s cold out, you’ll need to make sure your child is old enough to handle that without endangering himself. Your water heater will need to be turned down to a safe level, dangerous areas need to be locked off, and your home will need to be safe enough not to pose any danger of injury.

As long as you are within your local laws, the final decision is up to you and your child. If you’re not certain, try leaving your child home alone for very short periods at first, and then work up to longer times.


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