At this time of year, we get a lot of questions about Supervision Guidelines and when it’s “okay” to leave children at home alone. As much as we’d love to give parents a simple answer, it’s not a one-size-fits-all question. The fact is, every child—and family—is different. Instead of an “answer,” we like to provide guidelines, questions and tips for parents as they make this important decision for their families:
First, we encourage parents to ask these questions:
Can my child solve basic problems? Discuss “What if?” questions to see how your child would handle different situations (a knock at the door, broken glass, etc.)
Does my child follow directions and remember instructions?
Can my child say “no” to friends who might encourage him/her to break rules?
Does my child have trouble getting to or from school on time?
Can my child be away from adults without feeling lonely or afraid?
Does my child read and write well enough to take telephone messages?
Can my child ask for help from friends and neighbors?
Does my child understand the role of police officers, firefighters and rescue squads?
Second, are YOU ready for the responsibility of leaving your child home alone?
Can you stay in touch and supervise your child even if you’re not at home?
If not, will a trusted nearby friend or relative be accessible by phone and able to help in case of an emergency?
- Have you discussed and posted rules? Have you prepared your home so that it is safe?
And finally, how does your CHILD feel about being home alone?
It’s important to consider their fears, anxiety and/or other reactions to the idea so you can make a decision that is best for their wellbeing and safety.
Each jurisdiction in Northern Virginia provides different age guidelines. (Remember, these are ONLY guidelines!) In our area, most require that a child be between 8 and 10 years old before a parent even consider leaving them alone. Find your city or county below for specific age suggestions and additional resources:
Alexandria: Call 703-838-0800 or read Leaving my child alone at home (in English) Leaving my child alone at home (in Spanish)
Arlington: Call 703-228-1500 or read Arlington’s Guidelines here
Fairfax: Call 703-324-7400 or read Fairfax’s Guidelines here
Loudoun: Call 703-771-5437 or read Loudoun’s Guidelines here and here
Prince William: Call 703-792-7500 or read Prince William’s Guidelines here under “Child Supervision Guidelines”