Summer’s Coming So People Can Start Being Judgy About Parents Leaving Their Kids Home Alone

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kid-home-aloneSummer is coming and our kids are going to be home a lot more. At approximately what age can you start leaving kids by themselves at home? When it comes to the issue of kids being left alone, there are always varying levels of comfort. One person’s “no big deal” is another’s “holy crap you are a terrible mother!” As a parent, I have a hard time figuring out which end of the paranoia spectrum I fall on.

Times were so much different when I was a child. I was walking myself home from school by the time I was in first grade and a full-on latchkey kid by second. I was by myself for a few hours everyday between the time I got home from school and the time my older sister got home from swim practice. I never burnt down the house, opened the door to strangers or harmed myself in any way. But would I leave my seven-year-old home alone when the time comes? I’m not sure.

A pediatric trauma specialist from Penn State put together a guideline to help parents who may be confused about this – just in time for summer. The National Safe Kids campaign suggests that children younger than13 shouldn’t be left alone, but there are qualifiers.

Most guidelines indicate that a 7-year-old could probably stay home alone safely while you run a 20-minute errand. If the child is 10 or younger, an hour or two might be the longest you’d want to leave them.

For children ages 10 to 12, it depends on the child. Parents should consider the child’s maturity level, behavior, and emotional readiness before making a decision. Also, how does the child feel about such an arrangement?

I was definitely by myself alone during daylight hours between the ages of 10 and 12 without incident – but I was never comfortable with my 10-year-old stepdaughter being home alone when we lived in Brooklyn. I just made the excuse that it was because we were in a “big city.” That excuse was bullshit. The paranoia of city living had totally gotten to me.

I think the comfort you have leaving your kids alone has everything to do with the network you have and how your kids grew up. Now that I live in the suburbs with my family across the street I would have no problem leaving a 10-year-old alone. I know my neighbors, my family is across the street and I have the sense of “the village” looking out for my kids that existed when I was a child. If I was still living in the city surrounded by a lot of strangers, I’d probably feel differently.

A 10-year-old isn’t a defenseless infant. As long as you teach them how to respond to emergencies and such, there should be no problem leaving them alone for a while while you run errands. There may be those who disagree with you, but no one knows your child better than you, so just go with your gut.

(photo: Marilyn Volan/ Shutterstock)