A big question that parents often ask is at what age it’s OK to leave your child home alone. In general, there’s no specific answer. The law varies from state-to-state, province-to-province, and country-to-country with age minimums ranging from as young as 8 in Maryland to 14 in Illinois so check your local law before making any further decisions about leaving your tween at home alone.
From a parenting perspective, there’s no hard and fast rule for what age is appropriate to leave your child home alone, but over 10 year’s old is best. Even then, only you know if your child is mature enough to stay calm in an emergency and know how to handle unplanned events.
Other factors to consider include how long you will be gone and at what time of day. For example, will you be gone during meal time and will your child be required to cook for her/himself? Is it at night where she might be more anxious or during the day? It’s also important to consider whether your child is good at following rules. If there’s not a good trust level, hold off!
If you feel your tween is ready to stay home alone, here are some safety tips to review:
What Your Tween Needs to Know Before Staying Home Alone
Don’t Announce It on Social Media – Establish ground rules as to whether your tween can have friends over when you’re out. Tell her to never post on social media that she’s home alone. Not only is this a potential home invasion risk, but an invitation for all of her friends to come over for an impromptu party.
In An Emergency, the FIRST Call is 9-1-1 – While minor issues warrant the first call coming to you, in a true emergency instruct your tween to first call 9-1-1. Discuss various emergency scenarios, such as a fire or an injury. Is she aware of what to do in each situation? Practice two different escape plans in the event of a fire and designate a neighbor’s home as the meeting place. Instruct your tween never to attempt to put out a fire and to get out immediately! Be sure she is CPR and First Aid certified and review how to handle minor injuries.
Discuss What to Do in a Power Outage – Make sure your tween knows where you keep flashlights and extra batteries and not to light candles in a power outage! Cell service might also be down so reaching you might not be possible. Tell her to keep the refrigerator closed to prevent food from spoiling.
Show Your Tween the Circuit Panel – Show your tween where the circuit panel is and how to identify a tripped circuit. If a switch continues to trip or the appliance she was using continues to shut down, she shouldn’t reset the circuit as it could mean there’s an electrical hazard. Explain to your tween that if she smells smoke, but doesn’t see a fire, it could mean that there is a fire behind the wall. She should call 9-1-1 immediately.
If you think your tween is ready to stay home alone, do a practice run of a short time to get used to it. Again, don’t succumb to peer pressure – only you know if your tween is ready to stay home alone.