Leaving the kids home alone

Last week, I wrote about letting my son (age 9) walk home by himself and how so many people seemed astonished by that. So I guess, I shouldn’t mention to those same folks that I have let him stay at the house without adult supervision.

I don’t recall when we started letting Jase stay home by himself. It started with me needing to run down to the storage locker at the pool. I was gone less than 5 minutes. Jase did fine.

And from there it was putting signs out at the neighborhood entrances or picking up Domino’s pizza, which is just a 2-minute drive from the house. All short stints and no problems.

CIMG3609As I said in my post about letting Jase walk home, he is a responsible boy. We have gone over all the rules – don’t open the door for anyone, don’t answer the phone unless it is Mom or Dad (we have caller ID), in case of a fire get out of the house, and if there is an emergency, call us or 911. And yes, we had to go over what constitutes an emergency.

Now there is no way we would be comfortable leaving him at this age by himself for a long period. I think the longest is about 30 minutes when I left to take Lexie to a birthday party. He was alone until my husband came home from work.

Texas doesn’t have an age limit as to when you can leave your child home alone. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website only states that adequate supervision is critical to keeping kids safe and that inadequate supervision can be a type of neglect. They list on the website some things to consider such as emotional maturity of the child, their ability to respond to emergencies, the ease in which they can contact another adult and how long/how often the child is left alone.

We don’t do this often. And this is something we feel safe doing with Jase. As for Lexie, she has stayed with Jase on those short jaunts to the pool or Dominos. But we would never leave her by herself. (She is just 6.) She is not ready for it. However, she is fine with her older brother for 5 minutes without us watching over her.

I think when parents are trying to decide when to leave their kids home alone or even walk home alone they need to consider that child. It shouldn’t necessarily be determined by age. It is what that child can handle. It also depends on the living situation. Do you live in a safe place for a child to be unattended? Would I feel as safe letting Jase walk alone in a rougher neighborhood? I don’t know. But for us, in our situation of living in a safe, family-friendly environment, I feel safe letting him walk by himself, play out front without constant supervision and yes, even stay home for short periods of time.

2 thoughts on “Leaving the kids home alone

  1. gipsika says:

    You are in Texas – it is probably safe. I grew up in the “old South Africa” and walked home from school daily, from c.a. age 9 onwards. It was a 1.8 km walk. It got old, hot and sweaty very soon but one thing it was not: Dangerous. I knew not to accept lifts from strangers, that was all I needed to know.

    Today I wouldn’t let my children walk or cycle, not even one block outside our security complex. I even get uneasy when they play inside the complex and don’t check back home for a too long time. Too many kids go missing here, their bodies are often found mutilated (after other horrible things were done to them) for “muti”. I wouldn’t dare.

  2. shegyes says:

    If you believe he is ready to stay home alone, I don’t see it as an issue. I was eight when my mother started letting me stay home alone with my sisters (two and three years younger than me consecutively). The same rules applied, and she was only a five-minute walk away. She worked as a stable hand for the barn just past the neighbor’s house.

    A year or two later she started working at the vet clinic only a mile and a half down the road, and when we came home from school, we dropped off our backpacks at the house and then walked down to the vet clinic to visit her for the last fifteen to thirty minutes she worked.

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