As a child raised by a single mom, my older brother and I spent a great deal of time home alone. I was your typical latchkey kid of the 80’s starting at eight-years-old. This scenario is not uncommon for children of single parents. In fact, it was reported in 2011 that on average over four million children were left without supervision for more than six hours every week.
For single parents juggling work and children, sometimes this is the only option. Which means kids must learn to take care of themselves, and often their siblings, at a much younger age than their counterparts.
But how young is too young to stay home alone? The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone. Other experts recommend the age of 10.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
In my opinion, it depends on a number of other factors that only a parent can determine. Consider the following:
- Your child’s maturity level
- How long you will be gone?
- Is it really a necessary reason, like your job, that is causing you to leave? Or do you just want a night out with your friends?
- Does your child possess the mental and physical capacity to handle an emergency, should one arise?
- Do you live in a safe neighborhood?
- Do you have trustworthy neighbors who could check on your child?
Allowing your child to stay home alone can be a good thing. It helps you build trust with your child. It helps him become more independent, confident, and mature. It also helps your child develop life skills he will need later on in life.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child.
I had the understanding of a child. When I became a man,
I put childish ways behind me.”
~ 1 Cor 13:11, NIV
If you want or need to leave your child home alone, consider these helpful tips.
- If you have a landline, leave a list of important phone numbers next to the phone:
- 911 (in a panic, they might forget 911 is an option)
- Poison Control
- Neighbor’s name, address, and phone number, not only for themselves, but to give to 911
- Trusted friend or relative
- Your cell phone
- If your child has a cell phone, program all of these numbers into the cell phone
- Review with your child scenarios for the following emergencies:
- A fire in the house. Discuss several escape routes and meeting places.
- A burglary in the house. Where would your child hide or escape?
- What would your child do if he just felt scared?
- Leave your child with a list, or agenda, of things to be completed while you are away. Don’t forget to build in some time for fun. You want to instill responsibility as well as reward for a job well done.
Remember, this is an opportunity for growth. Approach it with caution and respect, and your child will too. And hopefully it will serve as an opportunity to move your child into a more mature phase of life.
“Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children.
Be like babies as far as evil is concerned.
But be grown up in your thinking.”
~ 1 Cor 14:20, NIV
Elizabeth Oates is a wife, mother of three, and an author, blogger, and speaker who encourages, inspires, and equips a new generation of women seeking a deeper relationship with Christ. She is a cliché Generation Xer from a broken home who once searched for purpose and significance apart from Jesus Christ. Today she devotes her life to spreading the message that we are not defined by our past; our God is bigger than our broken family trees and stronger than the sins that weigh us down. She graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and co-founded Project Restoration Ministry. To learn more about Elizabeth or receive her weekly blog, please visit ElizabethOates.com