All Parents Want to Know – At What Age Can I Leave my Child Home Alone?
I hate paying a babysitter. Especially one who leaves my house looking like a tornado of dirty dishes, Legos, and Polly Pockets just hit it. 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 Kids Staying Home Alone
Surprisingly, there really are no hard and fast laws regarding kids staying 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.
Here are the laws and guidelines between different states:
Preparing Your Child for Staying 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:
- The YMCA offers a workshop called “Safe on My Own” at various times and locations.
- MVP Sports Clubs also offers babysitting courses.
- The Red Cross offers babysitting classes that also cover some important home alone topics in addition to child care.
- Grandville Community Education periodically offers both home alone and babysitting classes.
- Hudsonville Community Education offers both babysitting and home alone classes.
- Safe Sitter is a website that allows you to search for home alone/ babysitting classes in your area.[clear]
Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Child’s Readiness
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if your child is ready to stay home alone:
- Is your child comfortable with the idea of being home alone?
- Is your child a rule follower?
- How does your child respond in stressful or difficult situations?
- Do they know what to do in an emergency?
- Is your child cautious about strangers?
- How safe is your neighborhood?
- Are there other trusted adults nearby that your child could contact if needed?
- Does your child know how to lock and unlock doors, answer the phone appropriately, etc?
- Does your child know information such as home address and phone number?
- 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:
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.