How Young Is Too Young to Leave Kids Home Alone?
My son was a pretty good kid at a young age, so we started leaving him home unsupervised around the age of 8.
We'd only be gone a few hours, overlapping my wife's and my work shifts, but he'd be alone for a few hours a day and we trusted that we'd taught him to be safe in his own home.
We taught him to keep the door locked and never answer the door for anyone, but then that fateful day came when Children's Protective Service (CPS) came knocking on our door.
The CPS caseworker was inquiring about how often we left our son alone and we explained that only when work shifts were crossed.
She explained to us that there is no Washington law that prohibited us from leaving a child unattended for a short amount of time, but that they had received a call from the neighbors.
It turned out another child in the neighborhood was playing "doctor" and the caseworker wanted to know if she'd done the same to our child. Our son said he didn't know the girl and that was the end of that.
The CPS caseworker wasn't happy that our son was home alone, but couldn't do anything about it and even complimented our son on the fact that when she knocked on the door, he never answered.
She said she could hear him playing video games and moving around in the house, but not once did he look out or open the door.
I guess you would call that a proud parent moment.
School is set to start back soon, so it's a good reminder that it's up to parents to decide if their children are ready to be home alone.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry does advise asking these questions if you have been curious about if your child is mature enough.
- Age and developmental level
- Understanding of parental "rules and expectations"
- How to access parent(s) or other adults (e.g. phone numbers)
- Potentially unsafe situations (e.g. medical emergencies, fire, alcohol, drugs, strangers, guns, etc.)
- When and how to answer the phone or door
- Use of phone, 911 for emergencies
- Use of television and computer, as well as safe and appropriate internet use
- Friends and visitors coming to the house
- Responsibilities for siblings
I never knew there was no law that governs when kids can be home alone and that it still depends on the parents to make good choices for their kids, but it's the one law I do agree with. Each child is different and knowing your own kids is the best way to know when they are able to be home alone without your supervision.
You can read more details here.