“Is My Kid Mature Enough to Be Left Home Alone?”
It’s obvious that a 2-year old is too young to fend for themselves, but most 17-year-olds can manage being left home alone. But what about the kids in between? It can be difficult to know when your kid is ready to care for themselves without adult supervision. While no parent wants to leave their kid on their own before they’re ready, alone time can be a great tool for fostering your kid’s independence. Plus, it can be challenging to arrange for constant year-round childcare, so it’s a big relief when parents know their kid can be self-sufficient for a few hours.
So how can parents know when their kid is ready to be left home alone? Ask yourself these 9 questions as you make your decision:
1. Do you know your local laws?
Regardless of your child’s maturity level, many states have laws in place that set minimum ages for parents to leave their kids alone. Some states have no minimum age while others have limits varying from age 6 up to age 14. Even states without minimums can prosecute parents if their child is harmed while left alone. Investigate your state’s policies before deciding whether your kid is ready.
2. Is your child self-sufficient?
Determine whether your child has all of the physical capabilities needed to take care of themselves for the length of time you’ll be gone. Are they able to lock and unlock doors and windows? Disarm your home security system? Make and answer phone calls? Use first aid supplies? Safely operate a microwave or stovetop? If not, show em’ the ropes and ensure they can complete these tasks unassisted before leaving them alone.
3. Are they emotionally equipped?
Ask your child how they feel about being home alone. If they feel confident and self-assured in their ability to care for themselves, they may be ready. If they seem fearful, anxious, or lonely, it’s probably best to wait or to leave them alone for short time increments to help them gradually overcome their fear. In most cases, your child will tell you the truth about how they feel, but if they have frequent nightmares, feel a need to turn on all of the lights, or tend to blast the TV volume up high when you aren’t around, they may have a fear of being alone.
4. Do they rank as responsible?
Is your child generally responsible with things like following rules, completing homework, and doing their chores? If not, they may be less likely to follow your instructions when you’re away. For kids who struggle with rule-following, work on building their accountability skills before they’re left alone.
5. Are they safety-savvy?
Hopefully your child will never be put in a position of danger while they’re left alone, but they need to know how to respond if they are. Talk through what to do in potential scenarios such as a fire, power outage, natural disaster, or a person at the door (stranger or otherwise). Explain your boundaries regarding texting and internet use and set clear rules about whether friends are ever allowed over under any circumstances. Make sure your child always knows how to reach you or other adults and always keep your phone accessible.
6. Do they have a diagnosis?
A diagnosis such as ADHD or autism can impact your decision on when your child should be left home alone. For example, children who struggle with impulsivity are more likely to accidentally injure themselves, so parents should be discerning about the amount of time they leave them alone.
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7. Is your home childproof?
No matter your child’s age or maturity level, it’s important to prevent access to dangerous items such as alcohol, firearms, or harmful chemicals. Ensure that smoke alarms are working and that your kid knows multiple ways to exit the house in case of an emergency.
8. Have you done practice runs?
Before you go out for a night on the town, try running a quick errand and see how your kid does with you being gone for a shorter time period. If they can easily handle 15 minutes on their own for you to fill up at the gas station, try a half-hour run to the bank. If they seem comfortable with that, go for an hour run to the grocery store.
9. Would a second opinion help?
It can be challenging to know if your kid is ready to be left home alone. If you’re unsure if your kid is prepared for this milestone, our specialists can help.
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How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn. M.M. (2019). Is My Kid Mature Enough to Be Left Home Alone? Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/is-my-kid-mature-enough-to-be-left-home-alone