Can My Kid Stay Home Alone? At What Age is it Okay?

Parents Want to Know – At What Age Can My Kid Stay Home Alone?

I hate paying a babysitter. Especially one who leaves my house looking like a tornado of dirty dishes and Legos just hit it.

And if I’m just running to the grocery store, it would be nice if my responsible kid could just stay home alone.

But, as much as I have been looking forward to the day my kids can be home on their own, there are many factors to consider before crossing that bridge.

What the Law Says About Letting a Kid Stay Home Alone

Surprisingly, there really are no hard and fast laws in Michigan regarding when you can stay home alone.

There is also some variance between states. An employee from Kent County Child Protective Services told me that 10 or 11 is generally the youngest age a child should be left alone, and then not for more than a couple hours. But there is nothing specific in child protection law about what age is allowed.

Home Alone Laws and Guidelines for Different States

age kids can stay home alone

Preparing Your Child to Stay Home Alone

There are several options in the Grand Rapids area for classes and workshops your child can take to help all of you feel more prepared for him or her being home alone. Here are a few to consider:

Determine Your Child’s Readiness

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if your child is ready to stay home alone:

Questions to ask to help determine if your child is ready to stay home alone:

  1. Is your child comfortable with the idea of being home alone?  
  2. Is your child a rule follower?
  3. How does your child respond in stressful or difficult situations?
  4. Do they know what to do in an emergency?
  5. Is your child cautious about strangers?
  6. How safe is your neighborhood?
  7. Are there other trusted adults nearby that your child could contact if needed?
  8. Does your child know how to lock and unlock doors, answer the phone appropriately, etc?
  9. Does your child know information such as home address and phone number?
  10. Does your child know how to contact you if needed?

Establish Rules and Plans

Spell out your expectations very clearly for your child before you leave him or her home alone.

Be clear about things such as whether or not they should answer the phone or door, whether they are allowed to use technology, and how to get in touch with you if needed. I personally really like this list of rules:

Age I can Leave my child home alone

Start With Some Home Alone Trial Runs

If you and your child decide you are ready to try being home alone, start out small. Try leaving your child home alone while you take a walk, work outside in the yard, or make a quick trip to the grocery store.  

Ease into longer periods of time, but make sure you take your child’s lead on this. It is not a good idea to push your child into staying home alone before they feel ready.

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5 thoughts on “Can My Kid Stay Home Alone? At What Age is it Okay?”

  1. These are all great questions! As I said in the article, there are many factors to consider which makes it difficult to give exact answers to any situation. I personally think a big factor (that we almost overlooked) is your child’s comfort level. I wrongly assumed that all kids would be excited to take that step toward independence, but not all of them are. Make sure you ask your child if he/ she is comfortable being home alone. If you are leaving older and younger siblings home together, make sure you ask both of them separately how they feel about being home without an adult. And continue checking in and re-evaluating. Good luck! (And HI and HUGS to Ken, Julie, Molly, and the rest of the fam!)

  2. Hi Katie! This is your cousin Ken. Good article. Julie and I were just having a disagreement,,,,er…discussion about this yesterday. Interesting that you should post an article about it.

    Our Molly is 15 but she has down syndrome. On the days that Julie works I come home to get Molly from the bus. She is so glad to be home that she does not want to go back out. So I usually let her stay home alone while I go back out to pick up our son from grade school. Julie is VERY uncomfortable with me doing this. I think Molly is old enough to begin to be a bit independent for about 30 minutes. So we disagree but I need to respect my wife’s wishes.

    Your list is helpful. We live in a safe neighborhood, she is very comfortable being home alone, we have trusted adults all around our house.

    Having a child with a disability does make it a bit different. I enjoyed your article and will have Julie read it too.


    Ken & Julie Farmen

  3. My understanding (from speaking with an acquaintance who’s an atty that does CPS cases) is that if the child who’s home alone is also babysitting younger children/siblings, that “babysitter” should be at least 12.

    He said it also really depends on how your kids handle themselves & what discretion you use. i.e. If your older child gets mad at the other and locks them out of the house, to which, the younger one gets an adult neighbor for help; or if your older child has been placed with too much of a burden (perhaps very young children to watch) & subsequently snaps or neglects them, then you obv have a problem.

  4. Are there different rules that apply if there are other siblings at home or rules about babysitting for non-siblings? I’m having a hard time finding hard and fast rules about any of that.

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