Monday, October 26, 2009

Home Alone - At What Age?

Good Monday morning!  I hope all of you had a super weekend!  I had a lovely one celebrating my 17th wedding Anniversary!  I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful hubby.

One of the discussions that I had with hubby this weekend brought about the discovery that we completely disagree on something!  Hubby and I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of what others think on the subject.  Who better to ask than my fabulous readers?

The subject is - what age to leave your child at home alone for a couple of hours.  Our son will be approaching that age at some point, but when?  Hubby and I have numbers for that age that are farther apart than I would have expected.  I'm not going to tell you what those numbers are yet...I want to see what your answers are!!  Later in the day, I'll leave our answers in the comments section.

So here's what I would like to know.  What is the youngest age that you feel is appropriate to leave your child at home alone for a couple hours in the evening while the parents go to dinner or shopping or the gym, etc.?  Would you change the age for a boy or a girl?  Obviously this could differ depending on whether or not the child acts mature and can be trusted to obey rules.  You can assume maturity and obedience.  Would you change the age if there are younger siblings to take care of?

I really want to hear your feedback!!  Also, I'm putting a poll on my sidebar with the same subject - feel free to click your answer there too.  Can't wait to see if your answers vary widely or are all about the same!

Thanks for your help friends!  Have a great Monday!


  1. I'd say 13 if they were just one child on their own. I understand that at 10, 11 or 12 they may be mature enough to handle being alone, but are they essentially mature enough to be alone if something happens.

    If there are other siblings I'd say the oldest would have to be at least 13 as well, because it's not only themselves that they have to look out for.

    I was left at home alone from about the age of 11 or 12, and while I was a mature child who stuck to my parents rules, it was hard to keep my sister in line (a year younger than me) even though she was mature and capable as well.

    I guess the only way to know is to try and and see what happens, but I don't trust the rest of the world to behave, so I'd rather my children be supervised.

  2. Wow, this is a tough one but one that I once asked myself.
    I'd say at least 13. 14 or 15 if younger kids are involved and depending on how young and how many. I wouldn't leave a teenager in charge of more than 2 younger siblings unless the siblings were older. I guess there are a lot of scenarios but because he's an only child, I'm going to say 13. And then I'd put him through little tests to see how he'd respond to emergencies.

    Big home alone and time to raid the fridge size hugs to you.

  3. We have four, ages 12 to 17. We didn't start leaving them all home alone together until about age 13 or 14 for our daughter. We just felt like she was responsible enough to call us if something came up, and it was after loads of begging on her part to trust her to "babysit" her brothers :-)

    Our early dates consisted of Saturday morning coffee dates. The kids could sleep in and we could leave early and have a great time of catching up plus get the added benefit of pretty much having the whole coffee shop to ourselves. They knew us, and our coffee, by name at that shop.

    We live on a Marine base so I really consider it like living in a gated community. It feels really safe! If I was going to the commissary or exchange for some shopping and knew I'd only be out for an hour or so, I would leave one or two alone off and on for that as early as 10. It was kind of a trial and error to see how they would do with it.

    Have a blessed week!!

  4. Well, at night for our only daughter - probably 13. She has stayed home by herself for 10 or 15 minutes while I run to the convenience store or her daddy has to pick something up at the church (where he works, 2 blocks from our house). Of course, knowing our sweet girl, she'll be 18 before she is willing to stay by herself ... she still sleeps on the floor beside our bed and she'll be 10 in February!! :P

  5. My son is 10 and I allow him to stay home while I pick up his sister from school. It is about a 20 minute time span. I in no way feel he is ready for larger blocks of time. This is kind of a breaking in period. With that said every time I leave we go over the rules and I remind dim where all the important numbers are.

  6. We started leaving my oldest home alone at 11 but I called every hour on the hour:-)

  7. In my opinion, this is something that takes practice and education. Have you gone over all the "what-if" scenarios? Can you trust your child to choose the right when no one's watching?

    I would say 12 is a pretty average age, but we started even earlier because our kids could handle it. And we started with "I'm going to visit next door for 20-30 minutes" when they were around 8-9, and worked up to "we're going away for the weekend" after they were 16-17.

    I was always grateful that we could trust our teenagers to babysit the younger children so we could go out to dinner or whatever. I had a friend with kids the same age who couldn't do that.

    It's interesting to see the variety of responses!

  8. I think it heavily depends on the child and the circumstances. On average, I'd say 12 years old since most states that have laws use that age.

    I have a couple of kids who will be older than 12 more than likely, while there are a couple who are/were okay to leave at 11, based on maturity and circumstance.

    I may leave a 10 yr old and younger sibling at home to make a quick run to the store-15 minutes or so. But no longer.

    This is one of those questions that most people just don't agree on!

    Lisa @
    All That and a Box of Rocks

  9. It depends on the child. I leave my nine year old for 10-15 minutes while I run to the local store. But with phones close by and doors locked, store is only two miles away. I would leave her and my 12-year old step daughter alone for a longer time together during the day. Night time I don't think I would leave them until at least 13 or 14. My son was probably not left at night until 14 or 15.

  10. This depends on their maturity level, but I'd say between 11-13.

  11. Hmm, personally, I would wait until the oldest is a teenager at LEAST! :)

  12. I love hearing all your comments on this! Thanks for all the feedback! My original thought was age 11, only because my son is very mature and responsible and because I was left home probably at age 9 and started babysitting infants at night at age 11. Of course, times are different!

    My hubby said age 13 or 14, which surprised me! But now I see lots of you think age 13 is appropriate. Of course, we don't have to decide this real soon, but I love knowing what you think and why.

    Keep the answers coming! :)

  13. Hmmm ... My son just turned 12 and, even though he's mature for his age, I don't think he's ready to stay home alone.

    I have something for you at my blog:

  14. I have really enjoyed hearing everyone's thoughts. My sister and I are 7 years apart but both happen to be living at home currently. I am 26 and she is 19. My mom has gone out of the country and left me completely in charge of the house, dog etc. My sister is 19 and we are going a few hours away in dad will be coming to stay at our house! It just shows that it truly depends on the individuals!!!

  15. I have wondered this very same thing. My son is 12 and I have not left him home alone. It's not that I don't think he could handle shorter periods of time. We live in a very rural area. It takes 20 mins to drive to the local grocery store. When I leave the house, I am usually gone for several hours. So, I take him with me. I know one day that will change, but right now I am enjoying spending as much time with him as he will allow ;)

  16. i think it depends on the individual child. my son is 11 and has never stayed home alone. i don't think he could handle an emergency if it arose when he's alone so i don't take the chance.

  17. I was like you and started babysitting at 11. My mom also left me alone from about 10 on with both of my younger brothers. I have left my 9 yr old at home while I have ran to the store abot a mile away to pick up an item or two. Of course the door is locked and he is usually in front of the computer, or tv. We also live in a pretty quiet small town with neighbors who all look out for each other which helps. My son is pretty calm so I would say 11 or so I would start to leave him for an hour or so and by 13 I would go out for the night.

    I do think this is a completely individual opinion and varies greatly on the children themselves. Some states do have certain laws and most of them seem to say 13.

  18. I agree it depends on maturity and whether they will be responsible for younger siblings. I've had 4 go through this stage and each was different. The oldest 2 were ready before the younger 2, girls before boys. I would start out at 11 or 12 and leave them for little "trial" runs. Maybe 10-15 minutes, increasing if they do well, but I never left them for 2 hours until 12 or 13. Also, it's a big plus if you have neighbors you can enlist to be watchful backups. :)

  19. ahhh - I don't even want to think about having to decide this!! :) [good thing mine are still little!]

    I have very traumatic memories of being 6-ish and home with my 10yo sister and her 12 yo friend one night - a guy was going around to all of our doors and windows trying to break in, and my sister panicked and decided to call one of her friends from school rather than 9-1-1!! My parents were less than a mile away, but this was obviously pre-cell phone. God definitely protected us - he eventually left; my dad followed his large boot prints all around the house (in the snow) the next day. *shiver*

    Needless to say, I will probably be a lot more paranoid than the average parent about leaving my kids home alone.

  20. I think it is a maturity call. Even the state government will not state an age, but says that it is up to the parents to judge when a child is mature enough to be left alone or watch siblings. For us, we began letting our son watch his three younger sisters when he was around 12. Granted, this took lots of training on our part, (he is a mature kid) and a couple dry runs. (One time we snuck back in when they thought we had left) We leave a cell phone with them and a neighbor knows we are gone and is 'on call' in case an emergency happens. At this point the longest we have left them is about 4 hours for a dinner movie date night.


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