Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Is my child ready?


4C was recently contacted by Channel 9 News to get our opinion and advice to assist parents with one of the hardest decisions a parent must make…what age can I leave my child alone.  School age children begin to insist they are old enough to stay home alone.  With the down turn of the economy, many parents have faced challenging child care options.  Seeking advice on when is the right time to leave a child alone is a smart option.

There are a few things to consider.  Each child is different.  One child may be ready to be home alone at the age of 12 and another child may not be ready until the age of 14.  “The decision about whether your child/children are ready for self-care is a continuing process rather than a singular event.”  It will begin with allowing your child to be left alone for short periods, a brief 20 minutes while you run a short errand.  The process is one of developing skills in your child and increasing confidence in the parent- with frequent monitoring of the self-care arrangement.  Please consider the following tips when preparing to leave your child home alone:

  1. Can your child lock and unlock doors and windows unassisted
  2. Can your child tell time
  3. Can your child recognize danger or a dangerous situation
  4. Can your child solve conflicts without adult help
  5. Does your child have a sense of security and confidence
  6. Does your child have the skills to handle boredom and fear
  7. Does your child handle personal responsibility
  8. Does your child understand expectations
  9. Is your child willing to stay home alone
  10. Will your child seek help from another adult if the need arises

A few other options to consider are safety of your home, a list of emergency phone numbers, who is allowed in the home with your child/children, responsibilities for your child, cooking guidelines, telephone and door guidelines and overall communication.

School-age child care professionals differ on if and when self-care is appropriate.  Neither 4C nor any school-age professional can decide what is safe or appropriate for your family or your children.  The information provided in this blog or our website @ is just a guide to use as you consider , evaluate or prepare for self care in your home.  The final determination of whether or not, or when to leave school-age children home, unattended by an adult, is the full responsibility of each parent.

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4 thoughts on “Is my child ready?

  1. What you failed to mention is legally what is the age a child can be left alone?

  2. I notice that the article mentions one child might be ready at 12, and another not until 14. However, daycares and Y-sponsored after school programs universally kick kids out at age 11. While I understand that there are different needs and issues for children age 8 versus age 13, this leaves most parents with no options. There really ought to be something offered for tweens, so that they aren’t home alone by default. As a point of reference, the CA girl who was abducted from her school bus stop and held in captivity until age 29 was age 11 at the time of her abduction – the age at which she was no longer eligible to go to a school before/after program.

  3. The “legal” age differs by state:
    Ohio statutes do not specify an age at which neglect begins when a child is left alone at home. See, however, the following Ohio statutes: ORC 2919.22 Child Endangering and Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2151, especially ORC 2151.03, which defines child neglect.

  4. Thank you Deb. My husband is a deputy and we actually have one of these books at home so I will look that up.