Are Your Kids Ready to Be Left Home Alone? This Is the Best Way to Tell

Leaving your children home alone can help build confidence and responsibility—if they’re ready.

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Getting to stay home alone is a rite of passage for kids. But only three states have laws with minimum ages that a child can be left alone (kids have to be at least 14 in Illinois, 8 in Maryland, and 10 in Oregon), leaving most of the guesswork up to parents when deciding whether to let kids stay at home when you’re out.

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First, you need to decide if you child is mature enough to be left alone. Don’t assume your children can handle being alone just because their peers’ parents leave them unsupervised. If your kids are independent and tend to follow rules, you can probably trust them to make good decisions when left alone. Float the idea past your children and see if they feel comfortable with the thought of staying back when you’re out of the house.

The circumstances of when you’ll be gone affect whether your kids can handle staying home. A few hours at night might seem scary to a child who would be fine for an hour in the afternoon. Also consider that a child who is mature enough to stay alone by himself might not be able to take care of younger siblings.

Once you do decide to leave your children at home alone, leave the contact information of who to call in an emergency in an accessible place. You should also go over basic first aid skills, give dinner instructions if they’ll be alone during a meal, make sure they know how to lock the door, and what to do if the doorbell rings.

Consider a trial run, leaving for a short time while close to home to see how your children manage with you away. Acting out situations like answering phone calls without revealing they’re alone could also help your children feel more confident when those circumstances come up. While you’re gone, call your child or have a neighbor check in to make sure your child is comfortable, and once you’re home, ask your kids about how they felt while you were away.

When your kids know they have your trust, they’ll be able to develop the confidence and dependability needed to become independent.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.