Home Alone

Tips to determine if your child is ready

One of the most difficult decisions a parent must make is to determine when it is safe to leave a child home alone. In Ohio, there is no specific age after which a child can legally stay home specified by the state or our local counties. Children are individuals and this question must be answered on an individual bases. 

In my own household I have a very responsible 11yr old who follows rules, is trustworthy and has good risk management skills. This same 11yr old is terrified of being left home alone. That said, her younger sister who does not like to follow rules and laughs at risk, begs to be left home alone, or worse… in charge of her older sister

At some point as a parent we must make the decision to leave our kids alone either out of necessity, or desire. The following are methods of deciding if your child is ready to stay home alone from Montgomery County.

  • Judge the level of your child’s maturity. Logic, truthfulness, reason and dependability are signs that a child may be ready to stay home alone for a few hours. The honesty and trust your child has with you also can be a determining factor.
  • To prepare the child, leave him alone for a short time. Each time, leave for longer periods. This will help the child to trust in his own capabilities when he is by himself
  • Play act with your child any possible situations that could occur (such as a stranger at the door or a minor injury). Calm, clear discussions will allow the child to voice any fears he may have while allowing you to give the child important safety information. Remind your child that it’s okay to be cautious.
  • Leave several telephone numbers for the child in case of emergencies, such as where you can be reached, the number of the fire and police department and the number of a trusted neighbor or adult friend. Post these numbers by the phone and make sure your child is aware of them
  • Make sure the child knows how to handle these situations: how to answer the phone, what to do if he finds the door open or a window broke upon returning home and how to apply first aid for small cuts or burns.

For most children by the time they age out of after school care programs they are ready to be left home alone, but as you can see some may still feel safer in an organized activity or with an adult. For me, I will continue to keep a watchful eye on my risk taker and rule flaunter, while encourage and helping my older daughter to work through her concerns, so that she feels more comfortable being home alone in the near future. 

Below is a chart with more guidelines and safety tips for leaving kids at home.