It’s a question we often hear from parents and caregivers–when is it “okay” to leave my child at home alone? Busy schedules, challenges with after-school care and so much more often make this a tough decision. Simply put, there is no easy answer. Every child is different, regardless of age. Every home situation is different, regardless of location or neighbors. And every jurisdiction is different in our area when it comes to regulations and guidelines.
We suggest that parents begin talking about and preparing for a child to be left alone before a decision has to be made. There is no magic number when a child reaches the perfect age to be left unsupervised, so even community guidelines (which often share ages from 10-15 as a safe range in particular instances) aren’t always applicable or safe. It’s often best to — when a child is responsible enough and open to the idea — begin slowly, leaving him or her alone for gradually longer periods of time (starting with as little as 15 minutes.)
To help families have this discussion, we recommend visiting the Supervision Guidelines page on our Parent Resource Center, where you can find a fact sheet in English and Spanish, as well as links to local jurisdictions for their resources and support.
What is your experience with child supervision guidelines? What is helpful and/or harmful? Are there other tools and resources we should be sharing with families? Please comment below to share.