When and how to leave them home alone.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-1998
When and how to leave them home alone.
Mon, 09-13-2004 - 1:25pm
I am a safety control freak. I worry about the littliest itsy bitsy thing that could happen to my boys if I'm not there overseeing things. I have begun to let go a little. I know it is important to give them some rope. I believe it should be done a little at a time, although it is hard for me. I have an acquaintance who is going to let her son begin babysitting her kids at 11 years of age. Her other kids are 8 and 4. This boy isn't any more mature than my son, who actually is a little older. There would be no way in @#$# that I would leave my son home alone during the evening, let alone babysit my other younger ds.

So...where does one begin? And when? Do you start out by letting them stay home alone in the house 15 minutes while you run to the grocery for a minute or take back a video? And when do you start letting them stay by themselves for an hour, 2 hours? When do they start watching their younger sibling. The thought of that gives me a heart attack. I think this stage of letting go is tough because I would never forgive myself if something happened to them.

Anyway, I know it is around the corner, but I just don't know how to start (nor want to for that matter!)



iVillage Member
Registered: 06-08-2004
Mon, 09-13-2004 - 5:13pm

One of the toughest questions, imo.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-11-2004
Mon, 09-13-2004 - 9:27pm
My case is similar to Carrie's. My just-turned-11 daughter has been allowed to stay home alone for periods of an hour or so. Same rules: don't answer the phone (unless it's my cell phone # on caller ID) or the door, stay inside, no visitors. She can call me on my cell or run to our trusted neighbor's house if she's scared.

DD has begged for the privilege of longer stretches of time. I hesitate -- not because I think she'll misbehave or burn the house down. She wouldn't. She's well-behaved. I hesitate because we had a home break-in a few years ago -- what if it happens another time, while she's home alone? I'm not sure that she's ready to handle a major emergency like that (I'm not sure that ANYBODY is, but hopefully I'd have a clearer head than a 'tween would). Anyway, I would never forgive myself if something horrible happened to her while I was gone.

That's also why I wouldn't want an 11-year-old babysitting for younger children.

I also know (through statistics read at work) that the primetime hours for teens to get into criminal mischief -- or pregnant -- is between 2pm and 6pm. Not coincidentally, the hours between the time school is dismissed and the folks come home from work. Latchkey kids with no supervision. Although my daughter has requested the opportunity to go home by herself after school and not go to a day car provider, I won't allow her to do that. Obviously, I'll have to allow her to spend the afterschool hours by herself sometime, but I have a wait-and-see attitude towards that, depending upon her maturity level.

As others have said, it depends on your son's sense of responsibility and his maturity level. I think I'd give him a chance at short periods of time home alone, but not put him in charge of his younger brother.

-- Steph

Stephanie, CL of the Dating as a Single Parent board: http://messageboards.ivillage.com/iv-p

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-1998
Tue, 09-14-2004 - 10:06am
Thank you both for your advice. DS turns 11 next month. It sounds as if you are both doing the same thing basically and I think I should follow suit. However, how did you decide when to start?

Did you just think, "he's old enought, let's begin". DH thinks we'll just know when to start, but I'm not comfortable with that. We don't have a caller ID, I suppose we should get that. I do like the thought of not answering the phone unless it's us. Good, good idea.

I guess I'm asking that now that he's 11, should we just begin 15-30 minutes. I would guess he's a bit more on the immature side, I think. I think if I left he would just do things like raid the refrigerator and eat all sorts of stuff he knows I wouldn't let him usually, that sort of stuff. LOL! I don't know. This is tough. But I know we will have to start sometime.


iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-2004
Tue, 09-14-2004 - 10:23am
My son just turned 11 but won't stay home alone by himself for any length of time for some reason. He, however, was just visiting his dad and stayed home alone with his dad's girlfriend's daughters all day i found out. She is 12 and her sisters are 9, 7 and 5. I thought this was very wrong and went and picked up my son. That's just insane. They wouldn't know how to handle an emergency by themselves at all. I would just do what you are comfortable with or your son is comfortable with. I think late at night or all day is a little much at his age, but I know people who do it. You just have to use your judgment on the maturity level of your child. I just think of the worst happening though and I know my son would freak out if he were alone. haha The people I know who do leave their children home alone usually have siblings that are older.
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-08-2004
Tue, 09-14-2004 - 11:27am
For us it was just kind of a natural evolution.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-08-2004
Tue, 09-14-2004 - 11:33am
Hello, hello!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-20-2003
Tue, 09-14-2004 - 11:42pm
I don't think there is a right or wrong answer.

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Community Leader
Registered: 12-16-2003
Wed, 09-15-2004 - 7:48am
I think this is such an importatn life skill, and hs to eased into. I started when my kids were small, when I would be next door talking to the neighbor. I would stay outside, so I could keep an eye and ear on the place. Then when dd was about 8 and ds was 4, I would pu dh from the train when he called, when it was cold and wet out. We live only5 blocks away, so I would be gone for less than 2 minutes. And, we would be were I can see the smoke rise, lol. Dd is 10 now and we will leave them for short things, like dropping books off at the library, etc... My ds is 6 and he is very mature too. I won't leave them for more than an hour, and I stay very close, and I have a phone with. My neighbors are also home, so that helps too. I keep on eye on their houses,a nd they keep an eye on mine.

Ramona  Mom to 2 great kids and wife to one wonderful hubby since 1990!