Is Your Child Ready to Be Home Alone?

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As the new school year starts, many parents are now facing a new decision: Is it time for my child to be allowed to stay home alone?

While most states, including New York, do not have a legal minimum age for children to be home alone, 12 years old is the most common age deemed “old enough” to even consider that privilege. Naturally, children mature at different rates; some being responsible and independent enough at 12 or 13 years old, while others are still too irresponsible well into their teenage years. Children with special needs may have limited ability to care for themselves and keep themselves safe. Ultimately, the parents or guardians are responsible for making that decision for their children.

Here, from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, are some important points to consider when making the decision to allow your child to stay home alone or to begin babysitting other children. These same questions should be asked when considering whether a child is old enough to babysit. However, when considering a child as an adequate babysitter, you must evaluate these factors for both the potential babysitter as well as the needs of the child or children who will be cared for by the babysitter. A child of 12 might be fine alone for two hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of responsibly caring for a 5-year-old for that same period of time.

Also consider the dynamics between siblings if they are going to be home together. For some, it may be a comfort to have company when adults are not at home. For others, adult supervision may be necessary to resolve conflicts if they occur. Still others may find the extra freedom provokes foolish and juvenile behavior.

Be aware, this is just the beginning of the issues to consider. It is not an all-inclusive checklist to guarantee intelligent and reasoned decision-making:

• Consider the child: How mature is the child? How comfortable is the child with the circumstances? What has the child done in the past to show you he/she is able to take on this kind of responsibility?

• Consider the child’s knowledge and ability: Does the child know how and when to contact emergency help? Is the child able to prepare food for him/herself? Are there hazards to the child in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, a stove or oven?

• Consider the circumstances: Where will the child be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone?

We asked our
Facebook Friends
at what age they felt comfortable leaving
their child home alone.

Here’s what
we found out:

Joan G.: “My oldest was 13 but I had no choice because I worked and she took the school bus. She was and still is very responsible. My youngest turns 10 in July, very different personalities and not as responsible.”

Isabella B.: “I was 12, but I am thinking more like 15 for my child. Thank goodness that is not anytime soon.”

Nicole P.: “15, sorry call me crazy.”

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