When is Your Child Old Enough to be Left Home Alone?

It’s Wednesday January 2 and the kids are still on Christmas vacation…for another FIVE days.

And I have zero leverage.

Gone is the threat that Santa will dock them a present for bad behavior. Gone is the promise of driving around to check out Christmas lights if they could just leave Mommy alone for 30 minutes to return a few work calls. Gone is the presence of Christmas treats at every meal.

Do I need to rethink my parenting style? Probably. But man, this mama needs a break.

For working parents, childcare is especially difficult this time of year. You may have already used up all of your 2018 leave, or you don’t want to blow precious days of your 2019 leave the first week of the year.

Whether you have to work or you just need a break, it’s tempting to leave your kids alone.

Take this story of an Indiana mom who was charged with two felony counts of neglect for leaving her 7 year old in charge of her 4 year old while she was at work.

When the police arrived, the boys were watching Home Alone. I hope the police were careful entering the home in case it was bobby trapped.

I think we can all agree that a 7 year old is too young to be home alone much less babysit. But how old does your child have to be to stay home alone?

When does a movie for two cost $80? When you have four kids and you have to pay a babysitter, that’s when. The last time my husband and I saw a movie in the theatre without the kids was Passengers in December 2016, a movie about a couple stranded alone on a luxury space liner. Spend an evening in our house and you will see why this premise would appeal us.

We, like all of you, are looking forward to the day when we can just go to the movies or to the store alone without having to drag the kids along or get a babysitter. So when exactly will that be?

The answer for us in Texas is, it depends.

Texas, unlike a lot of other states, does not have a law that says at what age a child is old enough to stay at home alone.

Instead, there are a number of factors that should be considered, including the child’s emotional maturity, the layout and safety of the home, the neighborhood where the home is located, the child’s ability to respond to an emergency, and whether the child has a mental, physical, or medical disability.

Other factors include the child’s accessibility to a responsible adult, the length of time you are away, how often the child is left unsupervised, and the child’s knowledge of the parent’s whereabouts. It is also important to consider how many children are left together unsupervised and their ages.

Consider these factors and your family’s situation carefully. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS), inadequate supervision can be a type of neglect (neglectful supervision). CPS can find you have committed neglectful supervision after investigating a complaint.

How Can You Prepare Your Child to Be Left Home Alone?

Putting on my mom hat, here are some things my husband and I have done to prepare our oldest daughter to be left alone in the house. She has all of my phone numbers and my husband’s phone numbers memorized. She has access to the phone numbers of our neighbors, knows several of them quite well, and would feel comfortable going to them for help. We have also run through various scenarios with her, such as what to do if someone rings the doorbell or if there is bad weather.

How Old Does Your Child Have to be to Babysit?

I am going to guess the follow-up question from you people with a couple (or more) kids. That’s great we can leave our oldest home alone, but at what age can she babysit her siblings and we can be done with babysitters for good?

If you guessed the answer is it depends, you’re right.

According to CPS, in Texas, the issue is not so much about the age, but rather if the child in charge is mature and mentally capable of caring for children. While this is CPS’s policy, local municipalities may take a different approach. For example, the police in Brownsville have taken the position that a babysitter must be 15 years or older to take care of children without adult supervision.

The Red Cross offers babysitting classes for kids starting at the age of 11. It also recommends a minimum babysitting age of 11 to 15 years old.

Keep heart parents, like everything else with parenthood, the days of needing a babysitter are numbered.

What is your family’s policy on leaving kids home alone or babysitting other kids? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Copyright © 2018-2019 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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