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When is your child ready to be home alone?
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Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP posted:
Parents often ask me what a safe age is to leave a child home alone. I don't have a simple answer, as it really depends on the age and maturity level of your child. Some states have laws regarding when children can be left at home alone, while others don't. But regardless, your child needs to feel safe and you need to prepare them. Here are some things to consider before you make the decision:

1. Is your child responsible when it comes to homework, chores, following house rules, and caring for himself?
2. Is he able to prepare food safely?
3. Can he care for minor injuries, such as a cut or a scrape?
4. Does he know how to reach you, or another responsible adult, should he need to?
5. Can you get home quickly, or is there a relative or neighbor nearby to help if needed?
6. Does he know not to answer the door if an unfamiliar person knocks, or what to say when a stranger calls the house?

If you feel your child is ready to stay home alone, here are some steps you can take to prepare her:

1. Ask her if she feels ready. Some children may be frightened by the idea of staying home alone.
2. Do a few test runs. Let her stay home while you visit the neighbors for a few minutes. Or take a short trip to the grocery store for no more than a half hour.
3. Role-play what to say or do if the phone rings or somebody comes to the door. Consider leaving a script by the phone. "My mom can't come to the phone right now. Can I take a message."
4. Show her how to operate any alarm or security systems you have in your home.
5. Post emergency info near the phone or on the fridge. Include your cell phone and work numbers, other relatives' and neighbors' contact information, and Poison Control.
6. Make sure she knows how to care for simple injuries that she might sustain, such as cuts or scrapes, and when to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
7. Have her practice cooking or preparing simple meals, like a sandwich or even dry cereal. If you decide it's OK for her to use the microwave or stove, make sure she knows how to safely use them.
8. Set rules regarding homework or limited screen and phone times.
9. If she'll be arriving home alone, have her call you when she gets home. Be sure to chat for a few minutes to ensure that the house is secure, and that she's inside safe and sound.

At what age do you think a child can be left home alone? How can you tell if a child is ready?
Reply
 
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nursingbug responded:
I was 9 when my mom left me alone for the first time, but it was only to pick my sister up from school when I was sick, and only for about 45 minutes.
I was home watching her and myself alone when I was 11. We lived in a safe area with a lot of retired adults that we could go to with any problems, and they all thought of us as step-grandchildren.
with my own kids I don't know if i will do that- it depends on where we are living and how responsible they are.
 
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phoenix31674 responded:
was a latchkey kid from 5th grade on because my folks divorced and my mom had to go back to work. I had to keep an eye on my brother who was 4 years younger than me. This wasn't for too long, only until my mom could get on the night shift, but then we were home alone all night and on our own to get dressed and out the door to school, but my mom was home when we got home, which was good for my brother when he started 2nd grade since then I was at a different school that let out later.

Of course that was back when kids still walked to school, so he was walking to school by himself unless he met up with friends in the neighborhood, but there weren't a lot of kids his age in our area.

I think I was 12 or 14 when my mom left us alone for a weekend but we had the number of a neighbor who would come check on us. When I was 16 and had the car, she left us alone for about a week while she went on vacation - again had the neighbor checking on us and we had an emergency money stash, but I know that there are very few 16 year olds who could be trusted to care for their 12 year old brother for a week. We just had to learn to be more independent with mom working.

as to when I leave my kids alone, we'll see how mature they are. I really do believe it's a case by case basis. Heck, some of the folks I went to college with shouldn't have been out on their own.
 
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Lainey_WebMD_Staff responded:
Do you feel children (now-a-days) are more mature to be left alone at an earlier age?
 
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phoenix31674 replied to Lainey_WebMD_Staff's response:
That's a good question. I think they try to grow up sooner. I know I played with toys at an older age then is being reported by the media. I recall playing Transformers during recess (post lunch) in the 6th and 7th grade. I don't know if that makes them more mature. I know that with the internet, there are seemingly more threats - or at least an easier path for those threats to kids. i do think some parents underestimate the dangers of the internet despite all the news stories out there.

The only mid-age child I've had direct contact with is my 10 year old nephew who has been smothered by his mother and grandmother and was homeschooled until just recently so he had very little interaction with kids his own age so he is a bit developmentally repressed as far as social skills are concerned. His brothers are much younger so he did not need to to grow up and act his age.
 
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An_222061 replied to phoenix31674's response:
I have a 7 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. I would never consider leaving them alone at home. As of this time, I am not sure at what age I would leave them. I am a CPS social worker, so I have seen first hand some of the things that can happen when kids are left alone. My kids may be out of luck for ever leaving them alone-- LOL. There are some crazy people out there.
 
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Polly808 responded:
My son is almost 13 and my daughter is 4.5 we have just started to leave them home alone. Started out 20 minutes are we are up to about 2 hours. I normally call after about an hour and am never more than 20 minutes away. My sister is only a block away so we have a bit of a built in safety net. My son is very well behaved and attentive to his sister. It has worked out pretty well so far.
 
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An_222062 responded:
Wow! This is really a great post. I don't consider leaving my children at home alone depending only how old they are. We should consider our kids level of maturity before we should leave them at home. My kids are 14, 12 and 9 and I am confident to leave them at home because they are responsible and matured enough to do what is right and not to do what is wrong. I trust them but I don't trust other people that's why I registered them to SafeKidZone for their safety. It's a mobile application that has a panic button installed on it,once they press the panic button friends and family members will be notified that they are in danger,and if needed the 911 will respond to your child's emergency.This cellphone-based personal safety is a big help for parents in protecting their children. If you want to check out, this is their site http://Safekidzone.com/
 
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Olivia_WebMD_Staff responded:
I love this topic because my husband and I disagree on it.

Our son is 13, and my husband thinks we should trust him to be at home alone when we take short trips. For instance, we had to pick up my older daughter at the airport two hours away from our house this past Saturday. The boy wanted to stay at home rather than take the boring car ride, and I put my foot down that 2 hours away is too far unless he's actively staying with someone, like a neighbor.

To Dr. Altmann's point, I just think that too many things could happen in that 4-hour time span, and we wouldn't be able to get home quickly.

Naturally, my husband thinks I am being over-protective. But, I think that we often leave him alone when we go out to eat or run short errands, and this gives him an opportunity to show us how responsible he can be. Just want to work up to leaving him longer.

Olivia
WebMD Community: A vibrant place to find support and feedback from experts and others like you.
 
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eastcoastbeachgirl replied to Olivia_WebMD_Staff's response:
My oldest is 12 and I have left her alone for short periods of time while running around with the others. But I do not think, my child atleast, is old enough or mature enough to be left alone caring for any of the younger ones, especially my son, who has many issues with hyper activity being added to the mix to just make it more difficult.

I do know many parents who have no choice but to leave their middle school children (6th to 8th grades) home alone after school, but I am not comfortable with doing that. To many people "cell phone" babysit. I make my oldest call me from a land line where ever she is going and I have had to go and get her when she has tried to lie about her location. I'm the "mean" mom, every one of the kids knows my truck. I have taken a few kids home when I have found them in unsafe places.

When I first had children I wanted so much to be home with them all day along, which I was able to do by the time I had my 3rd child but I have since realized that it is the older ones who need me here with them more than the little ones. The older ones have so many more oppurtunities to get into trouble/difficult situations. They think they are grown up! Many of them look grown up, like my DD but emotionally, they are no where near grown.

I guess it depends on the kid and the parent.
 
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Aura_Rose responded:
Hi. I have 2 boys, 12 and 9 yrs. old. There is no way I'd let either of them stay home alone. My 12 year old has proven over and over that he's not responsible enough. Only you know if you know if your child's ready mentally. If he/she's been responsible lately, than probably yes. However not for too long the first time. In my opinion, the length in their time home alone should gradually increase over time so it won't be so overwhelming for them, especially if there's a younger sibling. Why don't you monitor them for a bit and see if you think they are being responsible. I don't have to monitor mine, he just throws irresponsibility in my face.....lol Good luck


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