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When Can I Leave My Child Home Alone? 1/22/2014

Deciding when your child is ready to stay home alone is a difficult decision for parents. There is no set age, either prescribed by Idaho law or by child development experts. It comes down to a judgment call on the part of parents. Before leaving your children at home alone, make sure that they are mature enough to be on their own. Fortunately, there are some guidelines and certain factors to consider, as well as things to do if you decide to leave your children home alone.

Here are some points to consider in order to decide if your child can take care of him or her self:

  • Age. Many experts believe a child should be at least 12 before being left home alone, and at least 15 before your child can care for a younger sibling. These are the minimum ages. Not every child is ready then.
  • Maturity. Can your child think things through, plan ahead, make good decisions?
  • Ability to handle urgent situations. Your child should show good judgment and follow your rules. Your child should know how to get help, what to do in a fire, how to deal with visitors and callers.
  • Environment. Is it safe? Are there people nearby who can be trusted to watch out for your child?
  • How long will your child be alone. An hour or two might be fine; a day may be too long.
  • Your child’s feelings. If your child is nervous about being alone or isn't sure about how to handle certain situations, then your child is not ready.
  • Remember, just because your child may be ready to be at home alone, does not necessarily mean your child is ready to care for a younger sibling.
  • Try leaving your child home alone for an hour or two and see how it goes before you do it long term.
  • Each day, talk to your child about what happened during the day. Ask your child often how he feels about staying home alone.
  • Review safety rules on a regular basis.

Scheduled after school activities or summer camp programs are a great alternative to being home alone. Contact your local boys and girls clubs, gyms, churches, community centers, or 2-1-1 to see what may be available in your area.

If you need to find care for your child, call the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine and ask for child care referrals. You can also search for child care referrals online. Go to www.idahostars.org and click on "Online Child Care Referrals."
To Reach the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine, you can dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588.