Handy chart lets you know when your kids can finally fend for themselves
In case you’ve been wondering – and if you have young kids, you’ve definitely been wondering – at exactly what age it’s acceptable and safe to leave your kids home alone, you now have an answer.
The mother behind the blog Thirty Handmade Days put together a cheat-sheet for parents that lists, by age and by state (should the state have guidelines) when it’s okay to leave your kid alone by him or herself. It’s not 100% cut-and-dried, and she makes it clear these are not official recommendations, just a guideline she put together after consulting state-by-state recommendations and safety guides. Only you truly know when your children are responsible enough – or when your electronics and booze are locked up enough – to cross this threshold.
But it’s a good start.
A fair amount of parenting is simply waiting for the next milestone, waiting for your kid to be able to do something new, whether it’s crawling or walking or talking. At first it’s thrilling (“He said Dada!”), it soon becomes annoying (“He won’t stop talking about Rescue Bots!”), and eventually you forget there was ever a time they couldn’t do that one thing you once waited forever for them to be able to do.
The milestones are how you keep time, how you recognize the growth of your kids. And few milestones are more significant – or terrifying – than independence. As much as you want your kids to grow up, you also kind of don’t. This chart is a handy reminder that it comes in stages. Mique at Thirty Handmade Days emphasizes that 1o-year-olds “should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours,” she suggests. And it isn’t until after 13 that leaving a kid alone overnight should be considered. It can be a difficult thing for parents to discern, since so few states set a minimum age that a child can be left home alone.
As much as I’d like to take my wife to a cozy bed-and-breakfast for the weekend, I’m just not comfortable leaving my five-year-old in charge. Not yet! Unfortunately, for parents without the luxury of able-and-willing grandparents or other free childcare, that means either no romantic getaway or spending a fortune for the privilege of a little alone time.
Ever since I had my first kid, it’s been my dream for him – and now his brother – to be old enough to be left by himself so I can go back to living some version of a child-free life. I have quite a while to go before either of my kids hits prime “home alone” territory so this handy chart doesn’t have me packing my bags just yet.
But it’s a light at the end of the tunnel.