18 answers

Latch Key Kids...at What Age???

I know that my kids are too young now, but how old do kids have to be to stay home after school by themselves? Our school district has a bus system that runs for all ages and so withour current schedule it would put them home by themselves for 1-2 hours.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Ok, so I even called the State CPS and local office. Both of them told me the same thing that was on their website...It depends on the child, layout of their environment, etc. My husband and I have been talking to our children about the possibility and considering all the rules that will need to be in place.

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I have been shocked by some of the answers, my daughter is 5 and I would NEVER leave her home alone. My son is 9 and even though I trust him I wouldn't do it. There are so many things that could happen, I have heard the same thing the lady said about them having to be 12, any younger is just scary.

K.,
Apparently there isn't a rule on age for home alone kids, but in the car alone they have to be older than 7.

Personally, I think more than 15 minutes when they're 5 to 7 is okay, and 30 minutes for 8 to 10. When they are 11 and have gone through a program like the Red Cross for babysitting, then I think you can leave them longer.

I agree about staying home for teens, like the other poster said. I work at home and I have 3 teens and I am very glad to be able to watch over them and keep them out of trouble.

Here's the official word from Texas on kids alone....

http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/About_Child_...

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I don't know an appropriate age to leave kids alone. My son is 6 and I would never in a million years leave him alone for any reason, but that's just me. Even the most responsible mature kids have a strong curiosity - especially if they get bored. Anything could happen and just being 20 minutes and a phone call away could be too late. Not saying anything would happen, but I am saying "anything is possible". Sex offenders are very good at what they do and rarely act on impulse. They have scoped out scenes for a while and know the situation. They did a show on this a while back (20-20, Dateline, or one of those). They did a test w/ parents & kids to see what the kids really would do in a situation. Every parent "knew" their child and said their kid knew what & what not to do. Unfortunately, every single one they tested, failed. Time and time again, the staff pretending to be someone else, easily obtained access to those kids (ages varied). The parents were totally shocked. I'm really not trying to sound as if I think anyone is bad if they leave their kids alone. I'm just a "better safe than sorry" kind of mom. If I'm out grocery shopping and someone steals my purse from my shopping cart that I left "for just a minute", then I can replace it. I could never replace my son that I left "for just a few minutes". Just not worth it to me. We live in the country and I do go for walks around our property with him alone in the house but I'm always w/in sight of the house. Even then I worry the whole time and keep popping in to check on him. We use walkie talkies too - he thinks it's a fun game - without ever knowing I'm really checking on him! lol (I admit, I'm a "little bit" over-protective) :-)

1 mom found this helpful

I will be curious to read the responses to this question, but now raising my granddaughter and with years of teaching experience under my belt, I will tell you right up front that it is going to depend on the child more than the age. Next I would factor how fast a responsible adult could get to your child in an emergency. Take a moment to consider how much grief that an ex-husband or current in-laws or your parents or concerned relatives could dish out over your making this decision could give you. Assume nothing on any of these matters. If you get past all of this, then rehearse. Then rehearse some more. Try short trips to the grocery, cell phone in hand.
Have your child make decisions as if you are not there when everyday things present themselves. See what happens. Is the trust solid between you?
What would your child do if the toilet overflowed?
Lots to think about for sure.
C. S.

1 mom found this helpful

Well, I started letting my oldest stay alone for 30-45 minutes while I ran to the store or went for a walk- stuff that kept me close to home when she was 5. She's almost 8 now & I will allow her to stay alone if she's sick (just feeling crummy, not on the verge of dying!) & missing school. I am very flexible in my work & am close to home too- usually only gone 3-4 hours max. She calls me on the cell phone if she has a need or a question. I call her frequently to check in, too. We have gone over & over issues w/ the door, the phone, friends, etc. & she is to stay in the house at all times. NEVER answer the door & only the phone, if & only if she sees my # on the caller ID. I will also let her watch her 4 year old sister for 30 minutes or so, if I have to go teach a class or drop something off quickly very close to home, esp. if dad's on his way home.

I KNOW SOME OF YOUR HEADS ARE EXPLODING AT THIS MOMENT... but I know & trust my kiddo very much. My kids are not prone to pyromania, extreme mess making or other acts of risk taking. Together & alone, they usually just hang out & watch TV & get a snack. We are in contact when apart, and my oldest, for all her quirks, has always shown herself to be a responsible child, very mature for her age.

My mom left me alone for a number of hours regularly from the time I was 5 on. A classic latch key kid. We were in a mobile home park too, in a very rural part of Azle. Much riskier than my current neighborhood! I can't say I particularly enjoyed it, but I also became very self-sufficient & responsible. We can do our best to protect our kids- & we should, but they also need to have opportunities to develop their own strength. To become more responsible, to develop your trust & learn a bit of self-sufficiency, too. Now, often when I call to check in on my oldest, she'll say, "I'm fine. Everything is fine. Bye!" She is learning these important life lessons in a safer environment that I did, & I'm usually no more than 15-20 minutes away, and always in cell phone contact. I can't say most of us old latch-keyers had such a safety nets- I know I didn't. I was on & off the bus by myself everyday. I take my kids to & pick them up from school everyday. The BUS! Now that's an environment I don't feeel my kids are safe in!

As several of you have noted, it DOES depend on the child. I know 16 year old that shouldn't be left alone for a moment & 7 year olds are more mature & responsible than many teens. And if we never leave them alone...even as teenagers??? how in the world are they going to become competent adults w/o out us there "heliocoptering" or hawking them?

I HIGHLY recommend the DVD & CD sold at http://www.thesafeside.com/ They are wonderful resources to start a dialogue with your kids about all sorts of stuff related to strangers & even teachers, coaches, door safety, phone, etc.

Just my thoughts... D.

1 mom found this helpful

K.,
Apparently there isn't a rule on age for home alone kids, but in the car alone they have to be older than 7.

Personally, I think more than 15 minutes when they're 5 to 7 is okay, and 30 minutes for 8 to 10. When they are 11 and have gone through a program like the Red Cross for babysitting, then I think you can leave them longer.

I agree about staying home for teens, like the other poster said. I work at home and I have 3 teens and I am very glad to be able to watch over them and keep them out of trouble.

Here's the official word from Texas on kids alone....

http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/About_Child_...

Hi K.. I used to volunteer for the Red Cross, and I know that they have a babysitting certification program. I think they also have recommendations on ages that are appropriate for kids to be at home alone. Good luck!

Do you have any neighbors who stay at home? Just an example there is an older lady down my street that is always on my call list just in case I have to go somewhere without my girls. Or I have a neighbor who works at home. Or maybe some teenagers who can watch your children?

I started staying home when I was 10. I wasn't allowed to go outside once I got home. I couldn't open the doors to anyone unless it was a neighbor who was checking up on me. Our house had an alarm on it so if there was any panic (strangers, etc.) all I had to do was push a button on the alarm panel (rather than having to call the police). Plus my mom had a list I had to do so she knew I wasn't getting into trouble. I had to start working on my homework & had to clean up my room, etc.

Well the law says 5 yrs old is the youngest they can stay home. But I think it varies per kid and how many kids are staying home. I think between 8 and 10 is a good age. But maybe not it its all 3 of your kids. How old are your kids?

By the way I have talked to CPS about this and they said there is a law it is 5 yrs old and the child must know how to call 911 and the parent must be home by 9pm at least till they are 12.

Hi Kristal,

I don't think any age is safe to leave your kids at home alone...even when they're teenagers. My mom was always at home when I was young, but she went back to work when my younger siblings were in their teens. Now, as adults, the stories my siblings tell of all the things they did after school while no one was watching....very scary. And they were not "wild" kids! If there's any way that you can provide supervision for your kiddos for those 1-2 hours, you should seriously consider it.

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