Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parenting question

D had an early dismissal last Friday, two snow days this week, and today they had a two hour delay. I don't live in the part of the country that's had the crazy snow, but we've now got about a foot on the ground- which is quite a bit for Small College Town. These snow days aren't a big deal for us, because I work at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and H is home on Monday and Wednesday. D is 10 now, so she is pretty self-sufficient. She gets her own breakfast and makes her school lunches, but we always get her lunches at home for her (our microwave is above the stove, so it would be dangerous for her to even warm something up and risk pouring scalding food on her head). We have never left her home alone (except for 15 minutes once or twice in an emergency). I'm not sure what age I'll feel comfortable leaving her home alone for any extended period of time, but I can't see doing it before she's 12 or 13.

I'm really curious to know how others feel about this- it's not entirely clear what is even legal age for being home alone (and it probably differs if the child is alone or is watching younger siblings). I'm asking this because a colleague of mine stopped by the other day and asked if D was home alone (it was one of the snow days). I said that H was home with her (he would have been home anyway). He said that their daughter (who is D's age) was home alone for the day. I don't know that I have a problem with that, but I just can't imagine leaving D like that. I know that our parenting tends to the over-protective end of the spectrum, but I don't think we are completely out of the mainstream either. I know some of you don't have kids or have much younger kids, but maybe you remember from your own experiences- when were you old enough to be left home alone? I don't plan on changing my mind about this, but now I'm kind of wondering if I am just way outside the norm.


Wendy said...

Answer the legal question here:

My kids are a bit younger, but I presume we will be crossing that bridge soon ourselves. Our town offers a "home alone" class through the parks and rec department for grade 3 and up. For us, the decision will come down to whether or not we feel we can trust our daughter to keep herself safe and use good judgment. I don't see that as occurring at a fixed age, but at a particular level of maturity in which some kids will reach that point much sooner than others. Having other people in the neighborhood she can contact in an emergency is also key - if trusted neighbors will be home, it will be easier for us to make that call.

Addy N. said...

Thanks for the link! I like your point about neighbors- we have D's former daycare provider right next door, so that would certainly make me feel easier about leaving her alone.

canuck_grad said...

My first instinct is to say around 12 as well. Maybe 11 for a particularly mature kid. And certainly older for some kids. But I would think 12 would be the number 1 answer if this were a family feud question lol.

I looked at the link Wendy posted. Illinois' requirement of 14 seems a bit ridiculous to me!

Sherlock said...

I think it depends on the kid. Daycare here stops at age 12 (no daycares will take after-school kids after age 12). I was babysitting when I was 12. And I was allowed to stay home alone for short periods of time (like when my mom went to the grocery store) starting around age 10.

It's a gradual thing. Start leaving her for short periods of time and increase that as you and she are more comfortable with it. Lay down lots of ground rules!

When our boys were around 11 and 12, they started coming home from school and stayed by themselves for an hour till I got home. Man you should have seen the list of ground rules I gave them! LOL

It's different with two kids -- they'll tattle if the other does something really bad. Like when our older was 13 and put his school notebooks in the PLASTIC trashcan out back and burned them. And the trashcan! It was the last day of school and he wanted to burn his notebooks.

Fortunately they both had sense enough to turn on the hose and put out the fire.

Start out small with short periods of time. Make sure she's comfortable with it too. Sometimes kids don't want to be left alone even for a short period of time.

It differs with different kids and different parents Do what's comfortable for your family.

Addy N. said...

Yeah- I thought 14 seemed pretty old, too! I guess it depends on the situation (is it for an hour or all day) and the child, too.

Twice said...

I believe the Illinois law isn't as clear as that website implies. There is a relationship between the age of kids under 14 and the length of time they are left alone.

Anastasia said...

I was thinking about this sort of thing today because I left Kizzy use the bathroom in a restaurant by herself today. First time. I almost cried. Of course, the place was mostly empty and I watched the bathroom door the entire time. But still. :)

I was home alone for an hour before school and two hours after school--saw myself off in the morning and home in the afternoon--starting at the beginning of 4th grade. That. was. entirely. too. young. I never got into trouble and nothing bad happened. Even so. I wouldn't do that with my kids. I wasn't prepared to handle the responsibility.

Kizzy has a friend now who has a 12 year old sister--just turned 12--and I know they leave her for short periods. Not longer than an hour or so but if the mother needs to run an errand, she'll go without her. That seems like a good place to start.

Super Babe said...

I'm the oldest of 4 and up until I was about 9, we always had a live-in nanny (doctor parents, very busy, etc etc). After that, afternoons and evenings were by ourselves (family - my mom had her office at home, so if she wasn't seeing any patients, she could be with us, as could be my dad). However, when they had to go to the hospital (ob-gyn/pediatrician team), I would be left alone, taking care of my siblings - this happened around once every month, or every two months... and it was usually during the late afternoon or in the middle of the night. Many times I woke up to a note telling me they had gone to the hospital and could I get my siblings ready for school.

I do agree with the pp who said that it depends on the kid (I, being 2 years ahead in school, I guess made my parents feel like I was a bit older than I was age-wise, which was somewhat true)... but I also agree, I always had emergency numbers for neighbors who could come immediately...

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

I'd look at a child's maturity, decision making, and level of independence prior to leaving them alone. There are concerns with the child, as well as concerns of other things that may impact the child.

If s/he has shown a level of maturity and an ability to make safe decisions, I'd be much more likely to leave them alone, probably an hour here or there to test it out.

Addy N. said...

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone! I don't think we're quite ready to leave D alone yet, but in the next couple of years, it will certainly happen!