38 answers

What Age to Leave Children in the Car?

I became upset to hear that my stepdaughter's mom was leaving her and her 3-year old brother in the car while she went inside a store. My SD is 9. I know she locks the doors, but I can't imagine leaving a 9-year old and a 3-year old in the car alone! With all the crazies in the world you never know what could happen!

A 9-year old is NOT equipped to handle a 3-year old OR herself should any kind of situation arise, even if it's as small as suddenly the 3-year old has to pee.

Her dad and I are very upset. Besides talking to the mom, what else can we do? Are we overreacting?

Edited to add: In response to one helpful mama, this all came up when the 9-year old kept asking if she could stay in the car while I ran into the store. I told her "no, that's not safe" and she whined that her MOM lets her do it. I had my husband talk to his daughter to see what the situation was. Turns out the mom leaves them in the car while she runs into Walgreens and Target and sometimes the grocery store and that she does it all the time. She seemed to be telling the truth because she said that her mom locks the doors and cracks the window and tells the 3-year old to "mind her sister." I don't think the 9-year old could make up those kinds of details. I know she used to leave them both at home alone when my SD was 7 and the brother was 1 to run down to the fast food place. When confronted the Mom denied it, but after that SD said she never did it again.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all the responses, we don't feel so alone in making sure our children are next to us at all times! They mean the world to us and it only takes one second for disaster to happen!

I can't figure out if it's illegal in Illinois, but we are going to check into it. My husband will use that when he talks to his daughter's mom. Perhaps the idea of her losing her kids will be enough so she will never do it again. We try to stay on good terms so it helps us when we can make someone else the "bad guy." Anyone who has ever worked with a blended family knows how delicate the situations can be and how quickly they can blow up into custody battles. Last time my husband said that he had heard from his daughter that she was leaving them home alone, and that he didn't like it and was "afriad for her" that something would happen and she'd never be able to forgive herself. Also, that their daughter might mention something to a teacher who would report it immediately to the DCFS and she'd lose her kids. I know he wanted to tell her that she was a neglectful nut, but that would have inflamed the situation. Since it never happened again, it seems it worked.

Thanks for your support!

Featured Answers

My daughter is 5 and I've been leaving her in the car alone for about a year. But only to run in to the gas station to get a soda (and only the one right by my house) or into Little Cesears for pizza (storefront is all glass windows and we are parked right in front of it). I lock the door and take keys w/ me and tell her not to open it for anyone, including grandma!! Not that grandma is bad, but I want her to understand that the car doesn't get unlocked for anyone. And if anyone tries to talk to her, she is to scream and scream and scream.

But, I wouldn't leave her alone to run into a store where I couldn't see her.

Wait, I lied. I did run in to a Walgreens once while she was napping so I could use the potty (emergency!). It was the middle of the day and I was so nervous doing it, but it was an emergency. I normally wouldn't do it.

Having said that, I do think a 9yr old is ok to sit in the car, doors locked, w/ the 3yr old for a few min. Not a full grocery store or Target run, but a quick in and out run.

3 moms found this helpful

That's way risky - Target, are you serious?? I'm probably on the far extreme side of caution on this issue - I don't leave my kids for 1 minute, ever, unless I'm pumping gas literally right next to the car - and then I pay at the pump. If I had to run inside the gas station for some reason, I'd unbuckle them both and bring them in, pain the butt or not. I never leave my babies in the car without me. So what if I can see the car - what if something happened?? Things happen fast. Why take the risk.

I do have a friend who was written a citation by a cop when she left her child in the car for a minute to run into a dr. office - and she could see the car from the window inside. It's illegal in many states.

2 moms found this helpful

NEVER. When my kids are adults. There are so many crazy people out there that I am not willing to take the risk at the expense of my children. I would rather take longer, have a more difficult time in the store etc. because my children mean the world to me--- I would NEVER forgive myself if something happened to them and I could have provented it.

M.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

This is not a Black and White question.

All situations are NOT the same.

~I was MORE than comfortable leaving my 9 yr old nephew in the car with one of my younger children...I am MORE than comfortable leaving all 3 of my small kids in the car...

...when I am running into the quicki-mart or my local grocery store! They are 3 blocks from my house...I work there and I live in a VERY nice and comfortable neighborhood...I can see them from my car and I know everyone who is around!

I do not feel the same in different parts of my city, that is FOR CERTAIN!

I agree you should just ask them nicely and sincerely to please not do that anymore...and that it makes you scared and uncomfortable...they should understand OR put your mind at ease about what store, for how long and when she has left the kids alone in the car.

Hope this helps. I know this can be scary stuff!

5 moms found this helpful

Sue for custody the biological mother hasn't a shred of common sense.

4 moms found this helpful

My daughter is 5 and I've been leaving her in the car alone for about a year. But only to run in to the gas station to get a soda (and only the one right by my house) or into Little Cesears for pizza (storefront is all glass windows and we are parked right in front of it). I lock the door and take keys w/ me and tell her not to open it for anyone, including grandma!! Not that grandma is bad, but I want her to understand that the car doesn't get unlocked for anyone. And if anyone tries to talk to her, she is to scream and scream and scream.

But, I wouldn't leave her alone to run into a store where I couldn't see her.

Wait, I lied. I did run in to a Walgreens once while she was napping so I could use the potty (emergency!). It was the middle of the day and I was so nervous doing it, but it was an emergency. I normally wouldn't do it.

Having said that, I do think a 9yr old is ok to sit in the car, doors locked, w/ the 3yr old for a few min. Not a full grocery store or Target run, but a quick in and out run.

3 moms found this helpful

Ummm- it is ILLEGAL to leave your chld unattended in the car -- specifically in Illinois. How do I know this- 1) I am an attorney; and 2) I was at traffic court with my nanny and the first sign you see through security at the Cook County suburban courthouse near Old Orchard is "Don't Leave Children Unattended in the Car -- it is a CRIME". Just as an FYI.

2 moms found this helpful

That's way risky - Target, are you serious?? I'm probably on the far extreme side of caution on this issue - I don't leave my kids for 1 minute, ever, unless I'm pumping gas literally right next to the car - and then I pay at the pump. If I had to run inside the gas station for some reason, I'd unbuckle them both and bring them in, pain the butt or not. I never leave my babies in the car without me. So what if I can see the car - what if something happened?? Things happen fast. Why take the risk.

I do have a friend who was written a citation by a cop when she left her child in the car for a minute to run into a dr. office - and she could see the car from the window inside. It's illegal in many states.

2 moms found this helpful

You are not overacting....This should not be occurring..PERIOD! You husband should speak with the mother of his children.

I'm not sure if you are married to this man or his girlfriend/fiance. What I will say, is if all has been well with the children before you received this news: I would caution you to be careful and make sure you are not using a one time incident, that has not been verified, to escalate a situation rather then all adults involved, come to an agreement about never leaving children unattended in a car.

Blessings...

2 moms found this helpful

NEVER! Even when its just my husband and I, I take the keys out of the ignition and lock the door when he goes inside. People look for running cars to steal, even if its locked it only takes a second to break the window. NEVER leave your kids in the car alone!

Nora Im scared for your kids.

1 mom found this helpful

I think the time they are left in the car, and the fact if the car is in view or out of view makes a difference.

I personally would not leave my kids (7,6,4,2) in the car at ALL if I could not see them from where I am- and if I can see them, they aren't left alone for more than 3 mins. They are to keep their seat belts on, and I lock the doors.

Times I have left them "alone": when dropping off one of them (just walking their sister to a door) at ballet lessons, getting gas, in the driveway because I needed to get something quick from the house, and in their friend's driveways when I'm dropping off their sister for a play date.

Never ever would I even slightly consider going into a store without them, or anywhere that I couldn't see them, much less a place where i would be spending some time in.

If the SD is truly not being left alone anymore in the car, I wouldn't try and pursue any action on this. Nine isn't super young... I wouldn't let a child that age stay in the car either BUT, I could see how someone who wasn't fully thinking could find it "okay"... sounds like the mom used bad judgment, didn't find a fault in it, and was "caught" by you, felt bad, understood the dangers at that point and corrected it by not doing it again (hopefully). I'd drop it UNLESS she had done it again...

1 mom found this helpful

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