A question we hear a lot is, “At what age is it legally appropriate to leave my child home alone?” The short answer is that in Indiana, legally, there is no magic number. Leaving children home alone should be based on a variety of factors, including age, but certainly not limited to.
Instead of choosing an arbitrary age to decide if your child is old enough to stay home alone, there are some things to consider:
Do they feel ready to stay home alone?
First and foremost, if your child is not confident in their own ability to be alone, it is not appropriate for them to be alone. Regardless of the age the child’s siblings may have been left alone, each child develops at his or her own pace.
Is your child aware of what to do in an emergency?
Accidents happen, even in well prepared homes. Does your child know his or her address? Do they know the protocol on what to do if there is a fire? Do they have a nearby adult who they can go to should they need help?
Do they know how to reach you?
Does the child have access to a phone, and know how to reach you on yours? Does the child know who you’re with and when you’ll be back?
Is the child likely to follow the rules you’ve laid out?
If your child is unlikely to follow rules when you’re around, leaving them alone is certainly not going to make them fall in line. You can lay out as many safety measures as you want and go over countless role playing scenarios to prepare them, the bottom line is, if your child has trouble following instructions or orders while you’re with them, you cannot expect them to behave on their own.
If you and your child have discussed the prospect of being home alone and you’ve both decided the child is ready, you’re now free to formulate a safety plan and lay out the ground rules. And remember, just as readiness to stay home alone varies, the rule book should be customized for each child.