Trying to figure out the right time to let your children stay home by themselves can be a nerve-wracking decision. Are they ready to stay home alone? Are you ready for them to stay home alone?
“Most states have not enacted legislation regarding the age when children can be left unsupervised,” says Krystal Kuehn, co-founder of New Day Counseling of Troy. “Therefore, it is up to the parent to make a responsible decision that is appropriate for both them and the child.”
According to Kuehn, the most common age for children to stay home alone is around 12 years old. It is normal for parent to feel a little anxious when they first leave their child home alone.
“The parent will need to feel that the child can be trusted to be responsible when left unsupervised,” says Kuehn.
Leaving your child alone provides independence for the child – and it is important to know that he or she is also comfortable about staying home alone.
Adrianne Krotzer of Livonia has three children. They were ages 15, 9 and 7 at the time of her interview with Metro Parent.
“The eldest has been allowed to stay home alone by herself since around 10 to 13 years old. When she was 12 to 13, we were comfortable with her baby-sitting,” says Krotzer.
According to Krotzer, she started to prepare her middle child to stay home alone at 9 years old.
“I usually only leave for about 10 minutes, but only if I can see the house from where I am,” says Krotzer. “It is a good way to get her ready for when she is old enough to be home alone or let her baby-sit.”
Some parents don’t agree with leaving their children home alone at all.
“My son is almost 11 and I have a daughter who is 7. I don’t feel comfortable for many reasons,” Shane Ratiff of Romulus told Metro Parent in 2011. “I trust my son to know what to do in case of an emergency, but I don’t know that he would be cautious with his actions.”
Ratiff worries that her son would hurt himself and there would be no one there to help him.
Make a blueprint
Setting house rules is very important before leaving a child home alone. Examples may include: Not answering the phone unless the caller ID says it’s mom or dad, keeping the doors and windows locked, not leaving the house or letting anyone in, not using the stove and completing all homework.
“There should be clear rules when children stay home alone and unsupervised,” says Kuehn. “They must understand the importance of following the rules for their safety.”
Krotzer conducts routine fire and tornado drills with her children. She also teaches them what to do if there is an intruder. She’s clear about what’s off limits, too.
“My children are not allowed to call friends or use the computers or stove,” says Krotzer. And, beyond that, “all regular house rules still apply!”
This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated for 2016.