Parenting is Full of Decisions
Some parents struggle with leaving their kids at home alone, some barely blink before deciding. Like many other decisions, this is a family-by-family thing.
In my house, Cameron is the only one currently allowed to stay home alone. This was a hard decision to make, only because of his heart condition. I always have that in the back of my mind- what if he has an episode and I am not there? What if I can’t get back to him in time to get him to the ER? He still doesn’t have a phone yet. (See The Cell Phone Questions for that debate) He can always email me, and if needed, I could call 911.
He knows not to go outside, not let anyone in the house, and he’s not allowed to cook using anything but the microwave if Matthew or I am not home. He also knows what to do if a tornado hits, and so on. We went over this “a million times, Mom” before I left him alone the first time.
Julian isn’t ready yet- we tried a few times, leaving him with Cameron, but he got nervous and he decided that he didn’t like not having an adult around. This is okay, so we will try again in a few months or whenever he brings it up again. Lily just turned 10 and I wouldn’t even think of leaving her alone yet. She barely likes being alone in her room, much less being alone in the house. She definitely isn’t ready to be left alone with Cameron. Cameron does like being left alone- I think he usually takes a nap unless I leave him a chore to do.
Kids need independence. This is a well-known thing, but where do you start? Where do you let go? It’s enough to freak you out, and if you’re like me and listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, you really don’t want to let your kid do anything alone.
You can start this endeavor by going online. Look up information for your state- how old your child needs to be before you can legally leave them alone at home. Some states, like Kentucky, don’t have a specified age, but here, if they are under 11, Child Protective Services might show up. I found my age and other information on We Have Kids
- Is your child able to physically and mentally able to take care of themselves?
- Does your child feel okay staying home alone? Some kids totally love it. Some kids don’t.
- Does your child know what to do in case of emergency and know who to contact?
- Are there other kids to be watched or will this child be alone? Is that child able to handle that responsibility? Cameron and Julian are fine to be left at home alone, but forget leaving all three alone, for example. They would gang up on Lily, so this isn’t an option for a few more years.
- Are there special needs involved? Julian is fine in this department, but I wouldn’t want him trying to cook unsupervised. He would have to follow the same rule that Cameron does. I’m afraid he would get distracted and walk away, resulting in a fire. Besides his anxiety, I have no other issues with leaving Julian at home alone. I just wouldn’t leave him without Cameron just yet- not until he’s 100% ready.
- Do they follow the rules you give them during a test run? We did this and the boys did great. I came back once and Cameron was talking to his friend Craig out of my bedroom window. He couldn’t go outside and Craig couldn’t come in, so that was the best he could do until I got back. He ran outside as soon I walked in- I gave him points for creativity.
- Time limits. Some kids are fine to be left alone all day- mostly older teens, but start out with less than 2 hours, so that your child feels a bit independent but yet not scared. This seems to work at my house. Increase the time as the child gets a bit older or more comfortable with the situation.
This can be a bit nerve-wracking, but can be a good thing for all involved. The keys are communication and knowing what works for your children.
How do you feel about leaving your kids alone at home? Were you left at home alone a lot as a child?