When my husband and I talked about leaving our son home for the first time, we had a very serious list going on where we discussed just about everything that could go wrong, including but not limited to a live animal getting inside of the house and other crazy things that only parents can dream up.
As mothers and fathers we tend be overzealous when it comes to protecting our children and rightly so. So, we wanted to gather a few more facts before we ultimately made our decision.
What Are the Recommended Ages for Leaving Your Child Alone
We found that FindLaw suggested the following lengths of time that you should allow your child home alone by age:
- 7 & under – Should not be left alone for any period of time. This may include leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and backyards. The determining consideration would be the dangers in the environment and the ability of the caretaker to intervene.
- 8 to 10 years – Should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.
- 11 to 12 years – May be left alone for up to 3 hours but not late at night or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.
- 13 to 15 years – May be left unsupervised, but not overnight.
- 16 to 17 years – May be left unsupervised (in some cases, for up to two consecutive overnight periods).
Again those ages seemed to be pretty young, so while we felt that some of those lengths were probably appropriate, we wanted to have an honest conversation with our child about how long he would feel comfortable being alone. And while he said he didn’t care, we decided on two hours maximum for a few weeks as a test run, and then we would talk more about increasing the duration depending on how we both felt.
What we found is that our son loved to be home alone, but he didn’t like to be alone as it started to get dark. Strangely this mirrored what the child development experts had recommended. Truthfully, there were a few times when he met us outside before the door of my car even closed.
In short, every child is different and every parent-child relationship is different. So, it really boils down to how you and your child feel. It is a very important decision and one that you can’t take back, so follow these general guidelines and your gut and you will be okay!
Disclaimer:The content herein is a summary of generally available information from the internet. SAHM.org does not provide legal guidance to parents or guardians of potential home alone children. Contact your State DHS or local child welfare agency to learn about age guidelines in your area.