When Are Children Ready to Stay Home Alone?
Idaho does not have a specific law stating what age a child can stay home alone. It is mainly a parents’ decision.
Unfortunately, there is no magic age at which children develop the maturity and good sense needed to stay alone. It also is important to remember that if you choose to leave an 11-year-old home alone because you feel they are responsible enough, it does not necessarily mean they are old enough to watch siblings or other small children. We encourage you to contact your local Children and Family Services Program or your state police department if you have questions or concerns.
Making the Decision
Many parents face the question of whether or not they should leave their children on their own during the day. Consider their ages and abilities. Determine if they are able to follow directions, and then set up a plan. Consider the following issues in making your decision:
Does the child feel confident about being alone?
Is there help close by?
Does the child know how to safely answer the phone and door while alone?
Is the child able to make an emergency phone call?
Are important phone numbers posted near the telephone?
Does the child understand your rules and expectations about friends coming to the house, use of free time, phone use, and other house rules?
Does the child know how to operate household equipment?
Does the child know basic first aid?
Children who can answer "yes" to these questions and demonstrate the skills needed may be ready to stay alone on a trial basis. Once you have decided that it is safe to leave your children home alone, teach them about safety issues. Don’t forget to address behavior issues:
Make your expectations clear;
Let your children help make your house rules. They are less likely to break them. Go over the rules periodically, and post them in a prominent place; and
Call home at unpredictable times to see how they are doing, but also to let them know you will be checking up.
If you are hesitant about leaving your children home alone, consider programs at community and recreation centers, churches, YMCAs and YWCAs, summer parks and recreation programs, and the public schools. Perhaps you can get together with other working parents in your neighborhood to hire a responsible college student to come to your homes.
See also Latch Key Kids
A Final Warning
Statistics indicate that unsupervised kids are at greater risk of accident, harm by strangers, siblings, or friends, and are more apt to commit crimes than those under the care of an adult. Experts strongly recommend you not leave children under 10 at home alone for more than a few hours. No child should be left home alone for an extended period of time.
This article is comprised of excerpts taken from articles found on the web sites listed below under Additional Articles/Resources.
(Note: You'll find these articles at different web sites. Use the "back" button when you're done to return to this page. )
Copyright 2007 by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
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