family,  parenting

Alone at Home Overnight – When is it Okay for Teens to Man the Fort

Alone at home. The ultimate test for a teenager. Mom and dad are gone overnight. The house is theirs. How will they handle it? Will mom and dad come back to a home just as they left it. Will they discover a beer bottle under the couch from the wild party that 16 year old Jessie had. Or will they simply return to discover too many dishes in the sink from too many hours on the PS4? These questions and more go through all of our minds when the day finally comes to leave the kids alone at home. But when is that day?



Leaving the Kids Alone at Home is Subjective

As with any decision regarding family, deciding that your teen is old enough and responsible enough to stay at home on his or her own overnight is a purely subjective one. Only you know your teen. Some parents may have teens that are fully capable of manning the fort at 15 or 16, while others may have a 19 year old that they wouldn’t trust to stay alone in a cardboard fort. It really is a matter of knowing your child’s personality, their level of maturity, and how responsible they’ve shown themselves to be.

In addition to that, there are other outside factors to consider, as well. For example, you may have an extremely responsible 13 year old with a good head on her shoulders. But what happens if there’s a break in, a fire, or an accident. She may be responsible, but will she have the wherewithall to deal with a fire? What is there is a break in? A 13 year old can easily be overpowered by a grown man or woman. It’s multi-faceted decision, to be sure. Let’s see what the Canadian government has to say about it.

Canadian Legalities Regarding Leaving Kids Alone at Home

The government has a very broad interpretation of when it’s okay to let the kids fly solo at home. It’s almost as subjective for them as it is for us. That being said, there are some guidelines. In seven provinces and territories, the definition of “child” is anyone “under the age a majority”. In one territory, “child” is defined as “a person under 18 where the age of majority is 19”. The five remaining provinces define “child” as “either being or appearing to be under the age of 16”.

The majority of provinces and territories don’t limit the age at which a child can be left alone at home. However, in Manitoba and New Brunswick, it is stated that a parent “cannot leave a child under the age of 12 unattended without making provision for adequate supervision”.

Leaving the Kids Alone at Home is Your Call

Even with the laws and rules in place, the shorthand of what it all says is basically that it’s at a parent’s discretion. The interpretation of wrong doing is open, with most of it coming down to a history of neglect in one form or another. So, really, it’s all about your comfort level and your child’s maturity and responsibility. But be assured that you can be charged with neglect if you leave your child alone overnight and they run into emergency, or are unable to handle the responsibility.

Recently I had to think hard about this. My older girl is 16.  Both my girls are smart and know martial arts and first aid. But to leave them alone overnight yet? No. Not ready.

For example, I would not leave my children alone at home if one of them was under the age of 16. I feel like there are just too many things that can go wrong, even with a high maturity level in the kids. But that’s just me and my family. You may feel perfectly fine doing it. There are no set rules or guides to WHEN the perfect age is to leave kids alone at home. It’s all about them and you. So when you think about leaving your kids at home alone for extended periods, like overnight, ask yourself if your child is responsible enough to hold down the fort, knows what to do in an emergency, and if your comfort level can handle it. That’s what it really boils down to.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.