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  1. #1

    Default When is the right age to start being home alone?

    Our state is extremely vague (probably for the best, but not helpful) on when its okay to leave a child home alone.
    DS9 freaks out at the suggestion he stay home (playing minecraft, etc) while I run to the grocery or drug store (20 minute round trip). I think hes ready for that, but clearly he does not. (So he comes along.)
    I take DS2 to speech and occupational therapy twice a week (hour each session), and DS9 is a bit of a nusiance there (he does wiggly chatty 9yr old boy stuff when left in waiting room for an hour, even with ipad and book). It would be so much easier to leave him home alone for the hour and a half we are gone. Not going to happen anytime soon, I know, but it got me wondering when other kids start being left at home.

    But what do other parents do? When do you start leaving your kid behind when you go do *errands*?
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

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  3. #2


    I would say it would depend on how mature the kid is. If he doesn't want to it might be tough. I'd say 9 would be ok to be left for short times, but if he's really not comfortable with it it might be better not to. Perhaps you could start by leaving him alone while you go for a 10 minute walk? Gradually get him comfortable?

  4. #3


    I agree with Poppinfresh that if he's not comfortable, I wouldn't leave him alone....yet.

    I didn't leave mine alone until about 11 years old, and that's while I'd be taking a 1/2 hour jog around our area (with my phone with me if they needed to reach me). We didn't start leaving them alone for a couple of hours or more until they were 13/14 years old. And they were always together with the nice neighbor's phone number handy.

    Now, we DID leave them totally alone last year at ages 16 & 17 when dh and I went on a long weekend out of town together. But again, they could drive at that point, they didn't really need to go anywhere, and neighbor and grandparents would call daily (in addition to OUR calls) to check in--much to the irritation of my kiddos....

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward

    Daughter (22), a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son (21), a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  5. #4


    Yeah, I was going to wait until he is involved with his computer games then bring up the option for him to stay alone for a short errand. Where hes highly motivated to stay. He still pretends to be upset if I go to the mailbox (probably a 10min roundtrip on foot).
    But when do other parents leave their darlings alone for a 20 min trip? for an hour and half trip? For a couple hours in the evening? For the better part of a day? My mom left me alone all day when I was in elementary school, and I remember hating it. Shed also go to parties on saturday nights and I remember being terrified at mass-murderers on the loose just outside the door (so it seemed). I dont want to push my son too much, so havent. Errands its no real problem to have him with me, but for his brothers therapy, he is a hinderance.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  6. #5
    Senior Member Arrived ejsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011


    We actually did have a murderer lurking in the woods by our house a few years ago, and had the police searching for him. DS knows about that, because all the kids he was playing with were brought inside and doors locked up. He is 11, almost 12, and just this past year starting in the house, alone, while DH and I are outside working on a project in the yard. He stayed at home alone while DH and I were across the street on a Saturday afternoon for a baby's first birthday party. He came along at first, visited and ate, and then asked if he could leave. He texted us once or twice. I don't think he'd stay at home for an hour by himself, yet. He has done 20 minutes while I ran to the drug store, and he could call or text me. I only do that if my one neighbor is home. We are just now venturing into this territory, and it depends on which neighbor is home, how far I am going, and how long I'll be gone. DS has had anxiety issues in the past that sometimes rear up, so we go gently. He's getting much better with it.
    homeschooling one DS, age 13.

  7. #6


    I have let my 7 yo DS and 10 yo DD stay home together while I ran a short errand, on occasion. I wouldn't have done it when the boy was 6, because he was too much a loose canon, but now, if he's on a computer game, I could be gone for hours and he probably wouldn't even get up once, so not much chance of getting into trouble for a short errand. DD10 is so mature and responsible, she puts our 4 year old to bed every night, is an expert at soothing the baby sometimes when even I cannot, and is probably more adult than most 18-year-olds, but she is also not typical...she has always been exceptionally mature emotionally.

    DS7 LOVES being left to stay home, and always prefers that, to having to come with me on some piddly errand. He loves a chance to watch "Dude, what would happen?" and "Kickin' It" and Minecraft youtube videos, particularly Stampy ones. I don't mind Stampy (DH does, finds the voice annoying, but I rather like him) but I can only take so much of the Dude What Would Happen announcer guy.

    I am not at all frightened of them getting into trouble or coming to harm in that arrangement. What DOES give me the frights, is the militant attitudes of people in some places, that anyone under 18 left home alone for any period of time, is cause for criminal charges or something. I about choked on my coffee when an acquaintance casually mentioned getting a Babysitter to stay with her 13-year-old. Not for special needs or anxiety on the part of the kid, mind you.But that woman was something else. She also talked over,and for, the kid, if any other adult tried to talk to the kid, and basically seemed to have serious boundary issues.
    Middle-aged mom of 4 kids spanning a 10-year age range, homeschooling since 2009, and a public school mom also, since 2017.

  8. #7
    Senior Member Arrived dbmamaz's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
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    I live in an extremely safe neighborhood. I left the boys home together probably when Orion was 14 and Raven would have been 7, but I dont think I let Raven home alone until he was 9 or 10 - and started on shorter trips. I definitely would wait until they are ready. Its not just about safety, its about them feeling comfortable and not neglected or scared.
    Cara, homeschooling one
    Raven, ds 10, all around intense kid
    Orion, floundering recent graduate
    22 yo dd, not at home
    Inactive blog at longsummer

  9. #8


    I'm in a very safe neighborhood too, so that isn't an issue here. When my kids were 9 & 11, I'd leave them at home for short errands, like while I ran to the grocery store. When the kids got to be 12 & 10, I started leaving them a little longer, but only while I'm still in town and reachable by phone. We've even left them at for multiple hours night a couple of times now. But still always in town and close to a phone.
    working-at-home mother of two.
    homeschooling the 11yo boy.
    the girl is 14 (8th grade) and loves her public school.
    they are very very different kids.

  10. #9


    My son is 13 and stays by himself, but never at night. He just doesn't like being by himself at night. He doesn't even like walking from his friend's house to our house after dark and you can see his friend's house from our driveway.

  11. #10


    From when he was 11, I would leave him home alone no problem for up to an hour. However, he had STRICT instructions to NOT answer the door, no matter WHO it seemed to be (unless he could see it was me or his father), NOT to answer the landline (only his mobile if being called by someone he knew...that type of thing. If someone knocked on the door, he was to take no notice of anyone saying they were a police officer, or their puppy had escaped into our back yard...etc.

    As far as I know, he never slipped up.

    As for now (he's nearing 16), he could be left alone for a freaking WEEK and I wouldn't have to worry. Then again, he doesn't really like other people very much. His investment in unsolicited social contact has always been pretty damned low LOL. The only issue would be he'd be very smelly.
    Last edited by aspiecat; 02-04-2015 at 01:28 PM.

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When is the right age to start being home alone?