At what age can they be left at home alone?
January 14, 2016  |  Written by M. Rodrigo Brao

The idea of leaving our kids at home alone can be worrisome, especially if they are between 9 and 12 years old, a stage in their life when they aren´t little kids nor are they teenagers. However, we must remember that being at home alone or taking care of their siblings gives them a great sense of responsibility. So, what age should they start being able to manage themselves alone? Experts say that it depends on their level of maturity.

The majority of countries don´t have a law, which stipulates at what age a child can be at home alone. So, that decision is purely up to their parents. Obviously, when they are under 10, it´s out of the question but what happens when they are older?

Experts say that when kids are 10 or 11 years old, it´s all right for them to spend short periods of time by themselves (less than an hour a day), as long as they aren’t afraid to do so or as long as they are mature enough to control different situations. But, it´s best to wait for a couple of years.

Keep in mind the following questions before you decide to leave your child at home alone:

Do you live in a quiet residential area?

Is it an area with a low crime rate?

Do you have a burglar alarm?

Does your child know how to activate and deactivate it?

Does you child lock the door every time he comes in and understands that he can´t open the door to strangers?

Do you have friends, family or good neighbours that can reach the house in case of an emergency?

Is your child responsible? This includes finishing homework on time and taking part in the household chores.

Does you child feel comfortable being at home alone?


Before leaving them home alone

If you´ve answered yes to all of these questions, your child is ready to stay at home alone. But before he does it the first time, it´s best if you talk to him about the following situations, just in case:

What if the doorbell rings?: Explain what he needs to do. Ask him questions like: “A stranger is knocking on the door. What should you do?  Make sure he understands that he mustn’t open the door under any circumstances.

What happens when the phone rings?: If you have a cell phone, it´s preferable to let the landline ring. But make sure you leave him a list of numbers (family, relatives, friends, neighbours) so he can check who is calling. If the numbers don’t coincide, it´s best not to pick up. And if he does, under no circumstance should he say he is alone or that his parents aren’t there.

What if the alarm goes off?: Even though you´ve already taught him how to activate and deactivate the burglar alarm, do it again.

How many friends can he invite over?: Agree on a number and together, you can prepare some snacks for them. Make sure you tell him what TV programs or videogames he can watch/play and for how long.

After the fact

The first time, it´s best to let him be on his own for half an hour tops. When you return, sit down with your child and ask him how it went. Talk about any doubt of problem he might have had or might want to ask you about. If his experience a positive one, you can slowly increase the time he spends alone at home.

One last suggestion? Make sure you call him every now and then to make sure things are going well.

Have these suggestions been helpful? Have you left your child at home alone?

Photo Credits: Shutterstock

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