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Parents  >  Child Care Options  >  Home Alone

Home Alone

Deciding whether or not your child is ready to care for himself or herself at home alone involves issues of safety, maturity and trust. Age alone is not an accurate predictor of maturity, common sense, or good judgment. All children develop at their own rate, with their own needs and abilities. In addition, New York State has no legal guideline age to help parents decide when to leave a child home alone. Only you and your child know if and when he or she is ready to stay home alone.

 

Before allowing your child to stay home alone you should consider the following: 

  • Your child's age, emotional maturity, and responsibility level
  • The number of hours your child will be home alone
  • Ask your child how he or she feels about being alone. Is your child afraid, or does he or she feel comfortable and ready?
  • Can your child follow directions and solve problems on his/her own?
  • Does your child know household safety rules? Will he/she know what to do in an emergency?
  • Have you checked your home for hazards and made repairs?
  • Practice what to do if:
    • The smoke detector goes off or they smell smoke
    • There is a power outage
    • The furnace goes off
    • There is a water leak
    • They get hurt or feel sick
    • Someone comes to the door
    • The phone rings - should they answer and what should they say?
  • Will your child will be caring for a younger sibling? What is the younger sibling's maturity and responsibility level? Will they tease or hurt each other?
  • How safe is your neighborhood?
  • Can you be reached easily during the day?
  • Do you have trusted neighbors that your child can call when home alone?
  • Establish steps to follow when your child comes home from school alone. Does he/she call you at work to check-in or does he/she check-in with a neighbor?
  • Set rules about safety, phone, television and computer use, playing outside, chores, homework, cooking, snacks and friends coming over.
  • Give your child clear instructions about how to reach you at all times. Also tell your child who to call if he or she can't reach you right away.
  • Post in your home:
    • Your child's full name, address and phone number
    • Your full name
    • The exact name of the place where you work
    • Your work telephone number
    • Your cell phone number
    • Neighbor's phone numbers
    • How to call 911 and other emergency phone numbers in your area

You may want to start by leaving your child home alone for short periods of time in the beginning. Once you both gain confidence, you might extend the time left home alone. Remember, there is no law stating at what age a child may be left home alone. Parents must evaluate all of the factors and make this decision carefully.

There is no law in New York stating at what age a child may be left home alone