What Age Would You Do This

Updated on January 16, 2019
M.G. asks from Portland, ME
17 answers

Just curious, at what age (roughly) would you let a child go to a new friend's home without the parents being there?

My child has been invited over to a new friend's home (I just met briefly at school one day) after school. Her parents would not be there. They are in elementary school.

My child has only just been recently staying at home for short periods of time, gaining confidence and feeling more comfortable. She's taken a safety course offered to kids her age (she was the youngest age able to take the course). Our older kids took same course and we did the same thing (let them stay home gradually) with them.

This friend seems to be watching a younger sibling too from what I can over FaceTime (my child has been on FaceTime with her).

This hasn't come up before. I personally am not super comfortable with it. I said no the first time - we couldn't manage it anyhow. I thought better to have the friend here and see how they get on and how they interact, etc. It all depends for me on the kids and their maturity.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone - great advice and feedback. I love when you share your experiences.

Like JB, we had a couple of friends (we knew the families) where if the moms said they were running a little late or had to pop out for a few minutes, it gave the kids an opportunity to practice being on their own for a while, but as a general rule, we didn't have kids be unsupervised (or for long).

We don't know the friend or the family, and for all we know, the parents don't know she invited my child over.

This just doesn't feel ok to me - and I typically trust my mom-gut.

I think if it was a neighbor and nearby I might feel differently, but it's not. I also got sense the child was busy with younger (looks to me rambunctious) sibling. I listened in to the FaceTime call as I do when my child is on it.

Nice child - so I'll find out more if/when we invite her over. Thanks everyone!

Featured Answers

B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

18 yrs old
All joking aside - this friend is suppose to be watching her younger sibling - so she's baby sitting and that means she's working.
It's not a good thing to be distracted by friends when she's working.
It's a bummer that they are latch key kids - what they need is some after school care or activities.

I'm not thrilled with an unsupervised elementary kid being on FaceTime either.
This is exactly what online predators look for.
What else is she doing on the computer when her parents aren't home?

I'd not let my child be over there when the parents are not home.
As they get older you might think it would be alright - and for some it might be - but some teens need even more watching than ever before.
Set the precedent now and just say no.

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H.M.

answers from Dallas on

I would not let my kid. There are only a few of my boys friends that I would have considered letting them do that even older. And I would have to know the friend and the parents.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

how old is your child? If your child is in the 5th or 6th grade? I would say go for it. Younger than that? I'd have to know the kids and their home set up and rules.

The mom is okay with having people in her home when she's not there?

Your daughter obviously has some maturity since she took the safety courses. Let her do it - for like an hour to 2 hours.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

I was OK with parents being in and out of the house or on their way home in a fairly short period of time (an hour, max) when my kid was visiting starting at around age 10 or 11, but I would not send a kid really of any age over to a house where parents won't be there at all for hours.

At younger ages, there are the risks of leaving younger kids home alone...OK in my house, but I don't know if someone else locks their doors, lives near a creep, has unsecured weapons in the home, if the kids know how to get out in an emergency, etc.

As kids get older into middle school and high school, mine were forbidden from houses without parents home because after-school hours while parents work and kids are home alone is when a lot of stuff happens that you don't want your middle and high school kids doing. It's hard to change precedents later if you allow it when younger. Of course once they drive there isn't a lot you can do, but from ages 12-16, it's something to curb and younger than that, there is too much risk of an emergency happening that they might not be able to handle well.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

I guess we just never did that. If parents weren't home, my kids didn't go. That's not to say that a parent didn't run to the store and come back while my kids were visiting, but to come over after school before any parent has arrived, while the friend is supposed to be responsible for a younger sibling? Nope. Especially not in elementary school.

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T.D.

answers from New York on

I would do it at my house first so I could get to know the child my kid wants to hang out with. I am not comfortable with what you describe either!

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

1) You don't know the other kid. No idea about distractibility, personality, issues, safety training.
2) You don't know the parents. No idea what they've done to train their child, no idea if the house is safe (firearms, matches & prescriptions secured, just for a start).
3) You've heard (through someone - not the parents?) that the other kid will have responsibility for a sibling, and somehow someone thinks putting the distraction of a play dae is a good idea.
4) Your child is new at the stay-alone thing.

What are the positives to allowing it to happen?

Bring the other kid to your house a few times. See what the dynamic is between the kids. Have the parents pick up, or drop off and spend a few minutes chatting. Get to the point where you can talk about your values, rules, concerns, etc.

And trust your gut. If you're not comfortable, there's a reason.

And by the way, we gave our kid a ton of freedom. But not like this.

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R.L.

answers from Chicago on

I guess I'd also want to know the friend a little better and then confirm with his/her parent that this is OK. I could see two friends being even better than one for babysitting purposes, but it depends on the kids. I don't think there's a hard/fast age, maybe at 10-11 it would be worth exploring if it's just for a couple of after school hours.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Never. When they are young, they are too young. When they are teens, it's asking for trouble.

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R.K.

answers from Boston on

I'm glad you received responses that were helpful with your question.

I'd like to mention a slightly different scenario. Sometimes children in elementary school are invited to friend's homes when a parent is home. I caution against this, unless and until you know the other parents fairly well. This is a mistake I made (my child and the other child were responsible and had been in a club together.) The first time at the home the Dad was there and out of control. I was called quickly and retrieved my daughter, staying just a little while to settle things safely for the friend.

As my pediatrician always said: "Never ignore you Mom intuition."

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

i'm much more of a free parent than most and my kids did things that tend to be verboten here.

but elementary school is pretty young for this.

i'd do it if i could check all the boxes- nearby, like in the same neighborhood; short term, an hour or less; good sensible kid; i knew the parents well enough not to worry about things like unsecured guns; easy lines of communication between me and my kid (cellphone); my kid was sensible; i could get there quickly if needed.

khairete
S.

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L.H.

answers from Abilene on

I had a different experience growing up. My best friend had twin siblings when we were in older elementary (6th grade). She was responsible for them on the weekends a lot while her mom worked. I would visit and help her watch her siblings. This was a few decades ago though. I was always amazed at how she could "mother" those kids. She grew up in a hurry because she had to to help her mom.

I don't think I would be comfortable to let my kiddo do this without knowing them better. Also depending on the age of the kids. As an adult I've known a family where a teen was "responsible" for her toddler sibling. They had a pool and the teen lost track of the child for just a few minutes. The most horrible tragedy happened and it wound up tearing that family to pieces. I think if she's responsible for her sibling, having any distraction from that isn't a good idea.

Glad you got some good ideas and have decided to handle this the way you have. ALWAYS trust your momma gut. ALWAYS!

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G.J.

answers from Duluth on

Because you don't know the parents and your child is still young I myself had this same thing happen with my daughter. Get to know the parents and child. You don't mention how old your child is but I know that most states say that 12 is the age to be able to leave them alone. Hope this helps.

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R.A.

answers from San Francisco on

I’ve always had the other child at my home if their parents wouldn’t be there. Until probably age 14 did I allow my son to go to a friends home without a parent, and only because this friend lives on the same street. Now at 15 he’s allowed, but only until after I know the parents and kid. I’m a little more old school though..

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C.M.

answers from San Francisco on

I'd invite her to our house.

Updated

I'd invite her to our house.

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D.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

if the other child is supposed to be working by babysitting, my answer is NEVER.

My kids were in middle school (6th - 8th) when I allowed them to go over to a friends house or have friends come over to our home when I nor my husband was around.

The rules were strict. And all of our kids friends and parents knew our rules. No more than one friend over at a time. No smoking. No drugs. No crank calling. Homework or playing outside. They were to call when they got home and if they left to go anywhere (they were allowed to walk to the 7/11 for sodas and snacks).

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L.C.

answers from Washington DC on

We live rurally and my kids were super busy,mso that issue never came up. That said, the answer is never.

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