At what age can you start leaving your kids home alone

Some parents dread it, while others are anxiously awaiting it… the day when their child proudly proclaims, “Mom, I’m too old for a sitter!” But, how can you tell if your child is ready to go solo? Lisa Myers, from College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors, talks about what we should consider before taking that big step.

Q. This is a big question a lot of families face. Are there legal guidelines as far as what age kids are able to stay home alone?

Indiana has no minimum age
Other states, the minimum age ranges from 8 to 14
Good rule of thumb: 12-years-olds can stay home alone less than 4 hours during the daytime
13-year-olds can stay alone and watch siblings for up to 4 hours

Q. Are there behaviors we should look for that would indicate that our child is ready for this responsibility?

The child asking if he/she can stay home alone is the first signal they might be ready
Is your child able to entertain themselves and make good choices without asking you?
Have you witnessed them being a problem solver? For example: if there’s no milk in the fridge, can they come up with something else to eat for breakfast?
How will YOU feel while you’re away from home? Does your gut tell you that your child would not panic but instead go to a neighbor’s home if something happened like the electricity went out?

Q. How do we know if they’re ready to not only take care of themselves but younger siblings as well?

Consider the age difference between the children
Set up a family meeting to determine ground rules
Can the older child be counted on to react in an emergency in a way that will keep the others calm and safe?
Does the older child WANT to be the babysitter? Just because they seem old enough, doesn’t automatically mean they want the job.

Q. What do you suggest if your child thinks he’s old enough to stay home alone, but you’re not quite sure yet?
Start slowly and allow the child to stay alone for 30-45 minutes and then have a sitter come for the remainder of the time.
Set ground rules that the child has to meet before being given this new responsibility. Like completing their chores regularly, helping to make dinner, maybe even taking the Red Cross Babysitter Course.
If you’re still not certain they’re ready, College Sitters can provide a young, hip college role model that would serve as more of a “companion” than a sitter
With our new MySitters App, you can see what sitters are available and book right through the app

Q. Do you have any tips for the first time they stay home alone?
Ease your child into it and talk about different scenarios
Do they know their address and home phone number as well as your cell number by heart?
Do they have a neighbor they know well enough to call for help in case of an emergency?
Do a few trial runs where you are 15 minutes away and the neighbors are home

Signs your child is ready to stay home alone:
1. He or she is asking
2. Entertains his or herself
3. He or she is a problem solver
4. Listen to your gut

eCollege Nannies + Sitters + Tutors opened its Carmel location in 2014. The company works to build stronger families by matching them with nannies who are be role models for their children. College Nannies + Sitters + Tutors is the largest nationwide provider of sitters and nannies. Now, the next step in building stronger families is the launch of the new sitter service fueled by the My Sitters™ App. College Sitters is able to give families on-demand access to qualified, reliable sitters, specifically matched by the companies’ experts to meet their needs. The company continues to grow with more locations coming to the Indianapolis area soon.

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Twitter: @CNTCarmel