How young is too young to leave your child at home alone

My daughter is 8. We live in a secure compound with neighbours upstairs 90% of the time. I have left her on her own before to walk to the corner shop and back and last night I left her for 45 minutes to go and look at a new apartment my landlady was decorating.

What are your opinions on leaving an 8 year old at home alone and how long is too long to leave her? She is quite happy to be by herself and encourages me to go out :). My husband and I would love to go out for dinner one night and not have to get a babysitter but I think maybe 2 hours would be a little long to leave her by herself?

What do you think?

Each child is different and I found I was able to leave my son alone much earlier than my daughter.

That said however, the important thing isn’t how she handles regular things, it’s how she would react if something went wrong. Can she get herself out in case of a fire, can she think through multiple scenarios to find an alternative if the regular evacuation route is blocked?

Also, what are your local laws? No matter how mature and responsible she is it would really suck to have her removed from your home by child services for the cost of a babysitter.

It depends on the child, how long you are gone, and how far away you are. I would leave an 8 year old alone at home for 30 minutes while I was in walking distance, maybe, but not for two hours while I went out to dinner.

I think my parents started leaving my brothers and me home alone when I (the oldest) was about 12 or 13, but I’m not even sure I would do that today with my kids. But that’s probably the minimum I would be comfortable with.

As others have said, it depends on the child. We were comfortable with leaving the kids alone for a few hours around the age of 10.

What does “We live in a secure compound” mean?

Armed guards and concrete-reinforced steel walls topped with razor wire; why do you ask?

My son is also eight. I would never leave him for 2 hours, mainly because he’s a boy and would get into stuff … I might find he opened paint and started painting the kitchen, or decided to make himself tacos, or decide that today is the day to ride a shopping cart down the huge hill across the street. On the other hand, he is very safety conscious, has made our family have “fire drills” knows my parents phone number by heart, knows neighbours to go to in case of emergency. I do leave him alone briefly at night to drive my husband to work. I am gone for 15 minutes at the maximum, (it is a 5 minute drive but a 45 minute walk and at -40 it really isn’t worth frost bite) and I am loathe to wake an eight year old up at 11 pm for a quick drive. I have told him about this, and that if he ever wakes up and I am not home he should put on a CD and I will be home before it is over. If I am not home by then, he should phone my mom. Once he thought his dad wasn’t home when he got home from school, he was going to go to the corner store and call my parents, (this was before we even talked about that) but it turns out hubby was in the shed in the back yard.

Of course in the 1970s my parents left me alone for short but increasing time periods starting when I was six (there was half an hour between when I got home from school and my Dad got home from work… I was a latchkey kid but I didn’t realize it much later) and by the time I was nine I was looking after my brother when my parents went out in the evening. The first time they left us alone, my 4 year old brother woke up from a sound sleep and vomited all over me and the white shag carpet. (I told you it was the 1970s…). My handling of that situation clearly gave me the “Responsible Daughter” stamp of approval, and by the next year my parents were completely done with babysitters for evenings out. Of course, current local laws and mores being what they are, I wouldn’t leave a nine year old and a 4 year old alone for any length of time, for fear of having Children’s Aid swoop in

No armed guards but security gates and high walls. There are 4 apartments on the compound with my landlady’s family upstairs and home 90% of the time. When I went out last night we went over what she would do in an emergency but the fire strategy is a good one. I is a good idea for me to go over that with her even if we’re home.

She really really wants to look after herself :slight_smile:

Oh and I live in Trinidad…I don’t think there are any laws that say how old a child has to be to be left alone.

At 9 years old Ledzepkid walked home from school (half a block) and was home on his own for about 45-60 min before I got home. He was perfectly capable and we had good neighbors he could go to should he need it. On the other hand, my friend would never leave her 12 yo son alone because he is so scatterbrained that she isn’t sure he wouldn’t burn the house down.

It really depends on the child.

I started leaving my son home alone for short periods when he was 8. He’s generally a pretty independent kid and I think he enjoys the time without supervision. We don’t have a landline, so we got him a cell phone and had conversations about who he could go to if there were an emergency. We were also very clear about the fact that he was not to have friends over when no parents were home. When he was staying home by himself right after school, he was supposed to call me and let me know that he’d gotten home safely. We haven’t left him home by himself when we’ve gone out to dinner or anything, but that hasn’t really been an option as he has a younger sister who is not ready to be unsupervised.

The fact you live in a compound with high walls tells me you should wait until at least 10, maybe 12 depending on what goes on beyond those walls.

I live on a quiet street in a decent-ish area. We have a lot of families on our street and most of them let their kids roam the street. Not much goes on beyond the walls :). At the same time, it’s always good to be mindful of security and it makes me feel safer to have the high walls and security gates. My landlady, who’s house is on the floor above us, has lived there for 23 years and NEVER locks her door (in fact she leaves it standing right open from 6am til they go to bed). It’s a pretty safe compound :). I don’t know if I will be leaving her to go to dinner but maybe for an hour to go to the gym could work.

Which is a little different than how people actually do it. When you have to live with risk, you set your kids up earlier to cope with it. After all eventually they will be adults and you will no longer be providing walls. Where risk is lowest is where parents tend to bubble wrap their kids.

My kids were about that age when they’d get off the bus and be home for about an hour before we got home

My parents were going to let me when I was 10 but they chickened out at the last minute. I think it was the part when I asked if I could cook something if I got hungry. Into the car I went.

12 I think was the official year.

My boys are 24 and 26 right now. I still wouldn’t leave them alone in my house.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve been to Trinidad and I don’t think that the presence of walls and gates implies the same thing there as it does in Canada/USA. Actually out of the places I’ve stayed on the island the ones with walls and security guards were much nicer places in much nicer areas than the places without that stuff.

She’s probably ready then. Especially if she knows that getting into trouble while you’re out will mean a revocation of privileges! Start with shorter time periods (like the 45 minutes you mentioned) and work up from there, and see how she handles it.

With ubiquitous cellphones, I would think that parents would be okay with leaving their kids at home at the same ages as a few decades ago, but the trend seems to be going the other way.

This thread reminds me of a show I keep meaning to watch - Bubble Wrap Kids.

I started leaving my kids alone (together) for a few hours at a time when they were in 1st and 3rd grades. (I worked short shifts.) We had a good set of rules about where to go in an emergency (and what constitutes an emergency), who to call if there were problems, etc. I’d have preferred to wait another year, probably, but that was the way it worked out. Luckily we had a couple of neighbors who were home all day and they were aware of the situation, so that helped too.
They proved themselves when a straightline wind tore through our neighborhood. They saw the wind kick up, and Tbone gathered his sister, the dog, and a 3 pound box of blueberries in the bathroom, where they stayed until a neighbor came to fetch them. They were scared, but very brave–I was really proud of them.

I was occasionally left alone for about 30 minutes around age 8. By age 12 I was allowed to babysit other kids, usually after being given strict instructions about not ever letting anyone except the pizza guy into the house. We had a few misadventures, generally involving locking ourselves out, but no one ever got hurt.