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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar. 9, 2006
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC
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    1,788

    Default Kids: What age can you leave them alone?

    First, don't get into a kerfluffle, I'm not leaving my youngin' alone for some time.

    I am a single parent. My DD's daddy lives in another state, so only takes her every other weekend. I work full time and have a nanny for school pick ups until I get back from work those nights (4 days/week). I ride on weekends and my days off, as well as one night after work.

    I also like to run. When the temps are screaming high like they are now, I'd like to run either early morning or late night, but clearly that's not an option for me with a youngster (5 yo) in the house. I dream of the day I can safely scoot around the neighborhood with DD at home. I hate using a treadmill, but am beginning to think it's my only option at this point if I want to keep up my fitness.

    When I was a kid, I was totally latch-key from a very early age (7). No one does that anymore (do they?) but it got me wondering--when is it OK to start to leave your kid(s) alone for small periods of time? 8? 10? 12?

    Discuss.
    From now on, ponyfixer, i'll include foot note references.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun. 24, 2005
    Location
    Alabama
    Posts
    10,560

    Default

    It depends on the kid, their maturity level, and a support system in case of emergency. On Military posts they have 'child supervision' rules that specify by the age, amount of time, and still have problems because of the maturity level of the child-and I think 10 is the youngest, for brief times, and with supervision available (emergency numbers, how well-trained the child is about problem situations) close by.

    In my view your child is old enough to stay alone for an hour or so when they won't be frightened, won't let in anyone else, and if something goes wrong they get help and leave the house (fire or alarms going off) and won't do something like start the stove and risk a fire from a boil over, or by forgetting it's on. You also need to consider what happens if you go for a run and you get delayed (someone has an accident and you help) or something else delays you-who will your child call if you're late? Or if something happens that scares them and they need to call for advice. Some kids will never be ready, and others would be safe at 10 or so.
    When your daughter get older you need to have an emergency contact who knows when your child is at the house, and what to do if something happens to you. You need to have at least one person that your child can go with or will let into the house in an emergency when you can't be there.
    Last edited by JanM; Jul. 4, 2011 at 09:56 AM.
    You can't fix stupid-Ron White



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct. 1, 2002
    Location
    Cow County, MD
    Posts
    7,170

    Default

    Hmm, good question. No kids here, and I am 42, so take it with a grain of salt when I say that my mother used to leave me at home around age 5 to run my father to catch the train every morning.

    We lived in a very safe, upper middle class neighborhood, so I'm sure that was a huge factor, and I still got very strict instructions about staying inside and not opening the door for anyone. And I completely freaked out my mother the time I thought it would be funny to hide behind the piano when she got back.

    For extended periods, like a night out, I think I was about 12. Prior to that, I had older brothers at home who stayed with me. Once they went off to college, I was staying home alone.

    The world has changed significantly since then, though, so I'd be interested to hear what others say. And does the neighborhood you live in play any part in your decision?
    Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug. 12, 2010
    Location
    Westford, Massachusetts
    Posts
    5,009

    Default

    Depends on the child. My older son, I could leave alone for a quick, 20 minute, run to the store at about age 10. He was coming home from school to an empty house two days a week at age 12. He did fine. My younger son is 9 and I don't think he's even close yet, he's an anxious kid who worries a lot. It's not that I think he'd do anything naughty, let a stranger in or not run to the neighbor's house rather than trying to save pets in case of a fire, but he doesn't need anything to worry about.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 10, 2008
    Location
    Western NY
    Posts
    6,108

    Default

    I still don't understand why we're not allowed to crate-train infants and toddlers, but then again, I'm determinedly childless. d;



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul. 31, 2007
    Posts
    16,817

    Default

    Hang in there-- she won't be 5 forever!

    That's a bit too young, IMO. I think it's easier to bump down the age at which you leave kids alone if they have a sibling.

    After that, it's all about how mellow, smart and mature kiddo is. And if you have trustworthy adult neighbors who are around for a really fubar situation. And how you feel about the whole "latch key kid" concept.

    My sister and I were raised more or less by my working mom alone. I'd say we were 10 (me) and 8 (sissy) when we began coming home from school alone. My mom did have the kind of job where she could take a quick "Yo, we're home and it's all good" phone call (or the annoying "Sister done me wrong and I want you to adjudicate" phone call.) We also had common sense and each other for entertainment and moral support.

    I don't think the "latch key kid" thing was bad for us. Heck, my sister and I each got after school paper routes ASAP so that we could get rich(!). It was perfect. Kiddies were gainfully employed, had to learn responsibility and cooperation and had plenty to do between working and homework.

    But we did have *some trustworthy adult somewhere* that we could ask for help and we kids knew it. It wasn't just our mom who knew our neighbors, we knew them and they knew us kids, too. I think that made it work.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 23, 2005
    Location
    Spotsylvania, VA
    Posts
    14,608

    Default Times have REALLY changed

    I walked myself to and from Kindergarden, including crossing a rather busy road. That would be considered neglect now and I am NOT recommending that. By today's standards I am probably lucky to be alive (same with my kids)

    But, what is your area like? I live on a very quiet mile and a half cul de sac and would feel OK leaving kido to run at dawn while she was asleep.

    OTOH while I HATE treadmills I can run a dvd of one of my favorite old TV shows and zone out for 45 min on my eliptical.
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct. 27, 2010
    Location
    Nevada
    Posts
    2,561

    Default

    Depends on the maturity of the kid, the neighborhood, the state laws etc. I was a single mom with two boys, 7 years a part. We always lived miles out in the country as I preferred work in smaller rural hospitals, it was more affordable and we could have our animals. And I always had a huge support system set up for the boys...my phone at work, neighbors, vet, etc. I worked day shift or swing shift with child care until the older one was about 13. I then switched to night shift (8 hour shifts). The boys were in bed when I left and had gotten up and gotten themselves dressed, fed and off to school when I got home (weekdays during the school year) or up, dressed, fed and started morning chores (weekends, summers). They took care of the ranch, including supervising a mare that delivered earlier and without much notice, for a weekend when they older one was just shy of 15 (they'd seen deliveries before, I had vet on call, horse experienced girlfriend doing 2-3 x/day drive-in checks on them, had phone numbers for everyone everywhere....and the only thing they did was call me to tell me of the new foal). The following winter they took care of the place for three days when I got snowed in at the hospital (and relief shift people were snowed in at home....blizzard conditions and almost 5 feet of snow in rural area with little in the way of snow removal for outlying ranches).....they had instructions to call across the road neighbors if a problem. I ALWAYS had the place well supplied with food, bottled water (in case power went out and the well wasn't usable or pipes froze), feed for animals, firewood (we heated with wood for over 20 years). It wasn't ideal but it was workable, nothing bad came of it, the boys became quite capable and I know many a rural single mom still doing the same things.
    Colored Cowhorse Ranch
    www.coloredcowhorseranch.com
    Northern NV



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec. 7, 2003
    Posts
    430

    Default

    At 5 she is old enough to ride her bike alongside you while you run on a path or multiple-use trail. I see that all the time when I'm out running and I think it's a great way for kids and parents to get outside together.
    "Ponies are a socially acceptable form of child abuse." - said by a friend when asked if she was going to find a pony for her 5 year old daughter.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 26, 2006
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    5,642

    Default

    by the time they are old enough to be left alone, you do not want to leave them alone as they invite friends in.... if you put them into accelerated classes in school they could be sent away to college by 16 or 17



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2007
    Location
    so. chester co.
    Posts
    156

    Default

    State Laws will tell you what age you can leave them, but not all kids are ready to be left alone even if the laws say they can be.
    I feel for you, I am a single mom with an 8 yr old DD and I want to get up early and go for a run....or maybe just walk lol, but totally not comfortable leaving her even though we are in a very rural area.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct. 1, 2008
    Posts
    42

    Default

    I agree with those that say a responsible and trustworthy child can be left alone at age 10. Review possible and practice possible scenarios before leaving the child (What if somebody comes to the door? What if the phone rings? If you're hungry? If you see/hear something that frightens you?). Have a list of emergency contacts, at least one or two of which should be trustworthy neighbors.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr. 8, 2005
    Location
    Kentucky
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    4,580

    Default

    I know I was definitely under 12, probably 9 or 10 when I came home to an empty house after school until about 5:30 when Mom got home from work. I'd call Mom to check in, then do whatever I wanted- either watch TV or go outside and play. I lived in the 'burbs, on a dead-end road. There were a couple of retired folks on the road, as well as a few stay-at-home moms with kids my age. And my sweet old Lab probably would have killed anybody that even attempted to hurt any of the neighborhood kids. Usually I was at my best friend's house a couple of roads over- I cut cross lots when I was younger, rode my bike on the road when I got a little older. My brother is 4 years younger, and I honestly can't remember what he did after school when I was that young, but he wasn't home with me for at least a few years. In the summers I was also home alone. The only major rule I had was "stay out of the pool"- no biggie, I'd go swimmming at a neighbors or my best friends. I've always been a level-headed responsible type, and not prone to hurting myself or doing anything dangerous, so everything was just fine.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr. 17, 2006
    Posts
    375

    Default Get a jogging stroller!

    My husband had one and our daughter loved going for runs with him. He also had a trailer for his bike, never missed a workout.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2000
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    11,168

    Default

    Agreeing with the other posters that usually age 10 and up is when a child is might be ready to be left home alone for short periods. Though I do like the idea someone mentioned of getting a bicycle and having your kiddo ride alongside you while you jog.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2004
    Location
    City of delusion in the state of total denial
    Posts
    8,939

    Default

    I was five when first left alone for brief periods. I knew that if I had questions or concerns I was to call one of four immediate neighbors but that I was not to leave the house. Mostly I read a book.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
    - Harry Dresden

    Horse Isle 2: Legend of the Esrohs LifeCycle Breeding and competition MMORPG



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun. 23, 2006
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    473

    Default

    State laws will set your minimum, since you don't want to run afoul of that. The child's maturity will set when you want to do it. I think it's actually easier to leave only children alone just because there are fewer minds thinking up potential mischief.

    As a kid, my family lived in "nice" suburb. I started getting myself ready for school and to the bus in the mornings when I was in 3rd grade and started staying home by myself 2-3 days a week (alone for eight hours at a time) the following summer. I was allowed to use the stove but not the oven and was expected to do the family laundry every week. I actually enjoyed the days alone more than being home with my mother!



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2006
    Location
    The rocky part of KY
    Posts
    10,192

    Default

    There are state laws that address things like leaving your kids alone overnight, I remember a coworker tearing her hair out over the 15 year old who did invite friends over when mom was at work on the night shift.

    I think I left my DD alone when she was 6, after she started kindergarten, for brief periods when I was within walking distance at the neighbors etc.. I don't think I actually drove away and left her to her own devices until she was about 8, but we knew all our neighbors and she has always been mature if a bit lazy. Really depends on the kid and what you've taught them and expected from them when they were growing up.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec. 18, 2006
    Location
    NY
    Posts
    6,248

    Default

    At 5 she might be a bit too young for you to go running and leave her home, but I wouldn't wait until she was 10 to do that. (Assuming you don't train for marathons)....

    I think my kids were about 5 and 8 when I would leave them to run about 1.5 miles down my road and back. I started taking two-way radios and they were told not to call me unless it was an emergency....haha....there was always an "emergency" or two....or they were just curious "did you pass so-and-so's house yet?" I would always arrive back home exhausted and out of breath from yelling "Stop calling ME!"

    But if you can start by doing something like that (not at dawn while she's sleeping, but maybe while she's watching a movie), and you can check back and forth on phones or radios...I would think it would be ok to work up to leaving her for a bit (30 minutes?) to go running by the time she's 6-7. If she's mature and not afraid.....and I might also have a neighbor on standby if you can...just in case.

    It is an interesting cultural difference between the US and other countries. Our Russian teacher tells us how she would send her 6 year old alone on the train for piano lessons (not too long ago, either!) and that it boggles her mind that people here have "babysitters" for school aged children after school. This is just not done in other countries, and kids are not only left alone, but expected to do their homework and start dinner at ages 8-10.



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan. 14, 2003
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,482

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by carolprudm View Post
    I walked myself to and from Kindergarden, including crossing a rather busy road. That would be considered neglect now and I am NOT recommending that. By today's standards I am probably lucky to be alive (same with
    You mean back when we were kicked out of the house after breakfast, allowed in for lunch and then kicked out again until dinner time? When we were allowed to go out and actually play? With unstructured time and minimal supervision?

    I walked to school too. I'd take that part of my childhood over what kids have now - every moment structured, organized and supervised and not allowed to go out and play in the big, bad world. Kids not allowed to play a game that has winners and losers or be graded based on their ability because someone's feelings might get hurt.

    I also don't think it is such a bad idea to let kids 8 or 10 depending on their maturity level stay home alone unsupervised for short periods of time-like that amount of time it would take to go for a run. When I was 10, I was left 'in charge' of my two little brothers and little sister.



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