flying solo
family,  parenting,  Uncategorized

Flying Solo – When Is It Okay to Leave The Kids at Home Alone?

Flying solo. It’s a terrifying thought for many moms. The thought of our kids home alone with no adult supervision is frightening, but it has to be done at some point. At a certain age, we parents have to put enough trust in our kids to allow them to go it alone for short periods. But when is flying solo an appropriate option?

flying solo

 

Flying Solo Requires Responsibility and Trust

Knowing when it’s time to let the kids stay at home a lone is a pure judgement call. It relies on many factors including how responsible your children are, how trustworthy they are, and their ability to follow the rules of the house. Obviously each child matures at different rates, so while one child may be able to stay at home alone at the age of 10, another child might not be ready for that level of independence until they’re older.

My oldest daughter was fine staying home alone with her sister for short periods of time from the time she was 12. I only left them for half an hour periods at that time because my older girl had done her Babysitting Course and I was confident she knew what to do in an emergency.

My youngest girl is not yet ready to stay home alone. She will be 12 soon, but her impulsivity and unique special needs mean that she gets anxious even at the idea of being home alone. So, I know she’s not ready yet. Payton, now 14, started babysitting at 12 and she loved that so she was comfortable with the rules when she was in charge.

Responsibility

Gauging your child’s ability to be responsible is one of the key things in deciding when to leave them home alone. You’re not just deciding if they can feed themselves. You’re deciding if they can be left to their own devices for a given length of time. Does your child do their homework and chores without a fight? Do they regularly do that homework and those chores to the best of their ability? If they have extracurricular activities, are they able to juggle those activities and their school work effectively? If the answer to these questions is yes, then they’re already showing a level of responsibility that lends itself to them flying solo for a couple of hours.

Trustworthiness

Let’s face it. Kids don’t always tell the truth. We have to teach them the value of honesty. Some kids learn that sooner than other kids. So you’ll need to ask yourself if you can trust your child to be at home alone. If they regularly do crazy things that they know are against the rules or if they lie to get out of trouble, they probably aren’t ready to be left home alone. You may find yourself coming home to a disaster with an equally disastrous story accompanying it.

Following House Rules

This could quite possibly be the most important factor in deciding if flying solo is an option for your child. As parents, we know that house rules are there to avoid anarchy and to keep everyone safe. However, kids don’t always see it that way. Nevertheless, if they follow those rules anyway, you can probably feel good about leaving them alone at home for a while.

Flying Solo is Natural

At some point, flying solo becomes the norm rather than the exception, and that’s okay. It’s a natural part of growing up. The scary part is deciding when it’s appropriate. If your child displays responsibility, trustworthiness, and the ability to follow the rules of the home, you can probably leave them at home alone without a ton of worry.

Generally speaking between the ages of 10 and 13 are a good place to start. Just remember to leave a sheet of the rules (see below) to remind them before they being their first foray into flying solo. Personally, I feel better about leaving my kids alone because I have ability to text them from anywhere as well. My older daughter has her own phone and she can text me easily if she has any issues ever. I also have a Withings Home Monitor in my office which means I can watch the office space while I am away. That lends me a certain level of comfort too.

When your child, or children are ready to stay home alone, you can give them this handy checklist to follow.

flying solo

If you want to print this out, you can get it here:

home alone checklist Paula

Just click on the hyper text link above and you can save and print this out.

When were your kids flying solo at home?

If you are a parent with older children when did you find it was okay to leave them home alone for short periods of time?

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

61 Comments

  • Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    My oldest stays home for short periods (like when I run to the store) and he’s 11. I would not leave him for more than 15-20 minutes right now and as far as overnights go – not until he is 18.

  • Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    This is a great post. One of the hardest parts of my kids growing up is trying to decide when I can safely leave them at home without worrying TOO much. I think it’s an important part of growing up.

    • paula schuck

      Thanks very much Stacie. It is a really hard thing to gauge. I know my kids personally are both very different and one could handle this easily at 12. The other is not really even ready yet and she will be 12 next week.

  • lisa

    I love this. My oldest is 12 now and we are slowly letting her stay home for short periods of time. I think it’s more stressful for me than her!

  • Angie

    This is a great post! My mom left me home alone early, but I was a super responsible kid. I was 10 and babysitting my three younger siblings while she worked. But, it so depends on the kids, my best friend can’t leave her 10 year old home alone simply because she’s not very responsible-yet her 8 year old brother can be (for very short bursts like taking another kid to school or something) because he’s very responsible.

    • Paula

      Thanks Angie! Boy I know this well. My youngest is not ready at all and I have to respect that. But yes very honestly I was really young when I could stay home and babysit and all of that too. I was responsible and I’d start my homework and even get my brother doing his too. Thanks for your comment.

  • Karla

    It is always good to train your kids and leave checklists for them to do or not do. Although leaving them alone would be the last choice, it also teaches them to become really independent. Nice list you have.

  • tp keane

    I’ve asked myself this question so many times. I see lots of working parents who let their children come home from school and have to wait in the house until 6pm. some of them are 10 others are younger with older siblings. In the UK the legal age a child can be left alone in the house is 14. I think I’m going with that. But if it’s a case of leaving them alone for 10 min while running down to the shop, I would be okay with 10/11.

  • Chubskulit Rose

    We leave our daughter athome whenwe go for a walk but that’s about it, no long periods of time yet. Maybe when she’s a bit older. Thanks for the this useful article.

  • ricci

    I don’t have kids but I do love this post. I remember very clearly the first day I was home solo and it scared me but I felt very accomplished when my parents got home! HA!

  • Kelli @ 3 Boys and a Dog

    It’s very important that the kiddos understand all aspects of safety and know what to do in an emergency! At some point, we have to loosen the mom strings and give them that independence they need! Thanks for sharing! I know this will help a lot of parents who are nervous about letting their kiddos stay home alone for the first time!

  • Ann Bacciaglia

    This is a great checklist. My Son was able to stay home alone for short periods when he was 11. He liked being home alone and i did not worry to much. My Daughter is a different story. She would pick fights with her Brother so i was unable to leave them home alone together until they were older.

  • Christie

    I get nervous thinking about this for my kids! I think the printable is definitely helpful, as well as earning trust and trying short periods first

  • Tatanisha Pitts-Worthey

    A very interesting post! As parents, we know our children and we know or feel if they are responsible and sensible enough to be left. But I do get nervous thinking about leaving them by themselves, not now for me.

  • Maggie Branch

    I started staying home alone probably when I was around 10. I thought I was so cool but I remember feeling a little nervous about the “what ifs”. This is a really good check list of things to remember when home alone!

  • Chrystal | Nevermore Lane

    Here in Michigan there is a state law that kids can’t be left home alone until they are 12 and it’s only for an allowed period of time. Even so, it would also depend on how responsible the child is.

  • COURTNEYLYNNE

    I really think it depends on the kid! My hubby’s cousin is 13 but you would think she was 18 by how responsible and mature she is. We let her watch my 4 year old for an hour here and there and she does great. However I have a 13 year old cousin who I would never in a million years let watch my child….. All kid are just different and some are more responsible at a younger age than others.

  • Jessica Simms

    This is a great post! I don’t know when I will be able to leave the kids home alone, but I do know what you mentioned above about responsibility and trust is spot on. You need that in order to have peace of mind that they will be okay.I hope soon I can fly solo.

  • Peachy A.

    It is hard to leave my daughter alone, I just don’t know if I can do it. Maybe because even if she’s comes at the right age deep inside of me I will still worry for her like she still little.

  • KATE SARSFIELD

    Every child matures at a his/her own pace but a sensible set of ground rules in place can make all the difference.

  • Sue m.

    This is really useful information! I don’t have any kids myself, but I’ll definitely share this with other people I know who have kids!

  • sarah alexis

    I found this one of the most challenging decisions I’ve ever had to make!!! I consulted the web and tonnes of other people before I finally became comfortable with my decision.

  • clojo9372

    I don’t have kids, but I take care of my nieces and nephews on occasion and I am petrified of leaving them alone. Two of them are teens but I still worry about them as the adult — I am responsible. But they are growing up and I want to show them that I can trust them. I think I might ease up on the leash a bit — or at least try to. 🙂

  • Barrie

    I feel like as kids, my generation was home alone earlier than kids now…or I’m just more overprotective of our only child.

  • Natalie

    I do not believe that there is one age where all kids are safe to leave at home. It depends on the child.

  • Amy Green

    I remember when I first babysat for my younger siblings. My mom was tired of so-called responsible grown women and teenagers who would do things like steal, be negligent and make long-distance phone calls. My mom had a set of ground rules and we had to stay indoors. We watched “TGIF” shows on ABC, and ate dinner together and played. My mom knew everything would turn out okay, and I turned out to be my family’s regular babysitter.

  • Jeanna Massman

    This is a very interesting discussion. I think that most would agree that it depends on the child.

  • Ronald Gagnon

    It takes a lot of training, supervising, analizing and experimentation to know when you can confidently leave your child alone…your points are very valid..it differs for each child

  • debbie

    I started baby sitting at 14. But I was a shy teen who for the most part had a lot of common sense. The checklist and rules are a good idea and it depends on the child too. They have to learn common sense and independent thinking for themselves to cope in the big wide world and I think at about 14 they should be capapble and trusted

  • sheila ressel

    That’s a great checklist. As long as my child followed the list I would have no problem leaving them home alone.

  • Kim thorne

    I like that stay home list helps keep the child safe and organized because you can’t be too careful these days.

  • Barbara

    I was terrified to leave my son alone even though he was fairly responsible. I might have been a tad overprotective! In the end, I let him be home alone for short periods of time when he was 11 (a couple of hours when I’d go grocery shopping) then when he was 13, he would be fine for a full afternoon/early evening.

    I think I was actually more mature earlier than he was. By 11, I was babysitting both of my younger brothers after school while my parents worked.

  • Lyndsey R.

    There is no legal age here where I live…that is crazy to me. I’ve always said I’ll want my son to be 12…but a RESPONSIBLE 12 year old will be the key. Love the checklist as well. Thank you so much for this post.

  • Serena R.

    I was staying home alone from the time I was about 11 or 12, but I was a pretty responsible kid, and being nerdy, I just sat on the couch and read, and made myself a frozen pizza or something. I definitely think it’s important for kids to learn how to be self-sufficient in some ways, too.

  • Debbie Welchert

    It is a scary thing leaving your child at home alone for the first few times but I made it through it with no problems. Now I have to worry about my grandchildren and when is the right time for them. You gave a lot of great suggestions and I love your check list. Thanks!

  • Ira

    I don’t think I’ll be able to let my kids out of my sight until they are well in their 20th… seriously. And when I look at your list, I think my parents should keep an eye on me still 🙂

  • KATHRYN TEEL

    This is a great post for mothers especially new mothers. I do agree it depends on several different things; age, maturity, length of time, and even location. I love that people care enough about their children to take that into consideration and it’s important to go by how you judge the situation now how someone else does. I’m not saying anyone does that here, but I do know of someone who kept telling me that they left their son home at my son’s age when I wasn’t ready to because I didn’t think he was ready to don’t ever let anyone dictate to you when you should go with how your own unique situation I’m glad I did and have no regrets.

  • Karen Propes

    When my daughter was about 12yrs she stayed at home after school. On the weekends we were usually out doing activities along with church. She was very responsible and called me as soon as she arrived home. Only had a problem once and I came home quickly (luckly only 14 min away) and got her fixed in her bed she was sick on her stomach. I went back to work and everything turned out fine. But that was then. I had concerns back then, but she would have to be very responsible like she was back then and I would want a security system in our home, we didn’t have on back then. Call me a worry parent, I feel the same with my grandchildren.