At what age is it ok to leave kids home alone?

Filed under: Tweens, Teens, Work Life, Health & Safety: Babies, Life & Style, Childcare

I was at least twelve years old before I was allowed to cross the street by myself. It was several years after that I was allowed to stay home alone during the summer while my parents were at work instead of going to summer camp. I always felt like I could have stayed home earlier; now that I'm a parent I know how my parents felt: it was NEVER time to leave me home alone!

So at what age is it appropriate to start leaving your little ones home alone--without a babysitter? A recent New York Times article tackles that very question. There are few laws or guidelines to help us make such decisions. Pediatricians don't have much to offer. Ultimately, it becomes a decision between the parents and the child. Both have to feel ready to allow such a thing to occur. And, generally, it starts with an experiment. Leave the kid at home alone while you visit a neighbor for a cup of sugar (do people still do that?). Next time leave her home alone while you pick up the dry cleaning, and so on.

Many states see the tender age of 12 as the start of this new way of life. Twelve is different for each child. How the kid reacts makes all the difference in the world too, as does the general personality of the child. Is your child independent and can get things done on his own? Does your child fear being alone or throw temper tantrums? Do you find your child is in trouble all the time, even when you're around? All these things are taken into consideration when deciding to leave a kid at home. Many parents also have no choice but to leave their children alone--scary but true--even when they're not yet twelve. Luckily things like cell phones and other modern technologies have made it easier for us to keep in touch with our children.

I'm terrified to even think of letting my child stay at home alone or go anywhere alone in New York City, but I know it's a future I face. What about you? When did you let your children start staying at home alone? Was it earlier or later than when you stayed home alone as a kid?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.