Your child experiences so many important milestones growing up. Their first steps, first words, first day of school. Before you know it, you have to decide when that next milestone occurs — how old will your child be when you first leave him or her home alone? There’s no single age agreed upon, no single right answer. So if you’re considering leaving your child or teen by themselves for the first time, here is what you should know and what you should ask in order to make that decision.
Consider the Law
First of all, be aware that some states actually have laws that mandate the age a child should reach before they can be left home alone; and from state to state, these ages are all over the board. For example, the set age in Illinois is 14, in Georgia a kid can be left home alone at age nine, while several states like Arizona refrain from even offering an age.
If your state does dictate an age, think of it as the minimum recommendation, because regardless of what the law suggests, you know your child best. If your state mandates 10 as the ready age but your 10-year-old is a late-maturity bloomer, don’t leave your kid alone.
Consider the Research
Second to consider, many child development experts agree that around age 10 or 11, it is acceptable to leave children home alone for periods of time that are less than an hour, depending on two important factors: you are leaving your kid home alone during daylight hours and your child does not indicate that he or she is afraid to be left alone.
Again, you are the best judge to rule whether or not your child is mature enough to handle this responsibility, so even if he or she meets this criteria, you may want to wait a while longer before leaving them alone and at least another year or two before leaving then at night.
Consider Your Environment
Everyone’s circumstances are different, which is why when you’re wrestling with the decision to leave or not to leave, you should consider these external factors:
- What is the crime rate where you live, particularly concerning break-ins? If the crime rate is high, wait until your child is older.
- In case of emergency, are friends, family members or neighbors available to help? If not, it may not be the right time to leave your child home alone.
- Do you have a security camera system? Does your teen know how to operate it? Consider upgrading your home security system to better fit the needs of a teen home alone with features like a remote-triggered siren on the Active Deterrence cameras that sends an alert to your home app; this will allow you to access the camera remotely and activate a siren to deter crime.
Consider Your Individual Child
Kids mature at different rates. One child might be ready to be left home alone at age 10, while another might not be ready for that responsibility until age 15. Be honest with your self about your child’s maturity level and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your kid follow house rules, like not opening the door for strangers?
- In the past, has your teen demonstrated good judgment?
- In the past, has your teen demonstrated responsibility?
- Most importantly, is your child comfortable with being left at home alone?
If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then there is a good chance your child or teenager is ready for the challenge of staying home by themselves.
Your child’s life is full of exciting firsts, but their first time home alone is particularly important. Remember that every child matures at a different rate, so if you have any reservations about leaving him or her home alone, wait. Before you decide if your teen is ready, know the law, understand what research has found, but most importantly, consider your specific environment and your individual child.