Moms Talk: Home Alone—Please, Mom, Just for a Half Hour?
Moms are wondering what age it's OK to let your child stay home alone and for how long?
There comes a point in every mom’s life when she looks around at the chaos of a family of four: one child sick with what is probably strep throat, pending a doctor visit; another child needing to go to basketball practice; a third child facing an hour of math homework, and the youngest in diapers completely oblivious… but whining.
She thinks: “I can take the baby, drop Joey off to practice on my way to take Sam to the pediatrician, but what about Billy and his math homework? He’s 11, should I let him stay here alone to finish his homework in peace and quiet, rather than get dragged everywhere?”
Then the mother calculates the time and potential hazard of this solution.
“Please mom, let me stay here,” the boy begs, as the mom searches her decision-making capabilities.
Her mind races: He knows 911, but what about the poison control number, should he accidentally ingest a bottle of window cleaner? Ummm, unlikely. He knows how to do Heimlich on himself...or does he?
More likely: the neighborhood friends will be knocking on the door. PlayStation will be calling. Is he responsible enough to say no thanks, and just do his homework?
She is faced with a dilemma. With apologies to the Ramones, should he stay or should he go now? If he goes there might be trouble.
Is 11 old enough to be home alone for an hour while the mom gets things done, so the family can function?
In the child supervision and babysitting guidelines for Prince William County, it’s suggested that ages 9-11 can be home for an hour and a half during the day (older ages vary). That age may not babysit a younger sibling however. But each case is individual, and the county website offers guidelines and a phone number (703) 793-4200, to check.
Consider this lenient. According to Parent Dish, a mom in England was recently ticketed for “cruelty” for allowing her 14 year old son to be home alone, babysitting his 3-year-old brother.
We’d like to hear from you. Do you let your kids stay home alone for short times? Do they babysit their younger siblings? What are the ages and times you feel comfortable with? What about snow day and sick day plans when you are working? Has anything happened that made you re-think your decision?