When Can Children Be Left Home Alone?

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arenting is rarely an easy task at the best of times. When times get tough, like they have recently, parenting can get even tougher. With schools shut down all over the country, many parents have suddenly been reminded of just how tough parenting is. This is only made worse when some parents are still working, meaning their kids have to be left home alone.

Parents of younger kids can be left in a very tough spot. They need to work, but they also need to keep an eye on their children at home. They worry that their children may not be old enough to be left home alone. Then they wonder at what age a child can legally be left home alone in California.

It Depends on the Child

Deciding to leave a child home alone is not an easy decision to make. Most parents spend hours agonizing over that decision the first time. They may search online for answers, but unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The one nice thing is that there is no law here in the state of California that states when a child can be left home alone.

When it comes to leaving a child home alone, things vary from kid to kid. This is one of the main reasons why the state doesn’t set an age limit to when a child can be left home alone. Some kids mature faster than others, and so an 8-year-old may be ready to take care of herself for an hour or two while a 9-year-old may still need constant supervision. The state can’t make exact guidelines for this kind of thing and so refer to the parent’s expertise on their child.

To help parents make a truly informed and well thought out decision, the state does provide parents with a list of questions to ask themselves regarding their child on the California Department of Education’s website. These questions include:

  • •Can he creatively solve problems?
  • •Do you live in an isolated area without close neighbors?
  • •Does he always let you know where he is going and when he will return?
  • •Does your child become bored easily?
  • •Is a neighbor home to help if needed?
  • •Is he easily frightened?
  • •Is she responsible?
  • •Is your neighborhood safe?
  • •Will you or another adult always be available to your child in case of an emergency?
  • •Would caring for the younger sibling restrict the older child’s activities?
  • •Would she be at home with an older brother or sister? Do siblings get along?
  • •Would she spend her time responsibly?
  • •Would the older sibling resent caring for the younger one?
  • •Would your child rather stay home than go to a child care or after-school program?

A parent should carefully consider all of these before coming to a conclusion about what they should do with their child. Some parents may find that after considering these points, their child isn’t ready to be left on their own. Others may determine that child is ready to handle the extra responsibility that comes with being home alone.

If a parent decides that they can leave their child home alone for a few hours, the California Department of Education recommends creating some rules for the child. Some of the rules they recommend are:

  • •Are they allowed to leave the house or go outside?
  • •How she can reach you.
  • •The foods she may eat, preferably nothing involving the stove.
  • •What appliances and devices can be used.
  • •What TV shows can be watched.
  • •Which friends are allowed to come over.

These simple rules can help keep a child safe while they are on their own.

It’s the Parent’s Decision

No one ever said that raising kids would be easy, and that was when things were generally right in the world. With schools shut down now, parents who are stuck going to work are being forced to face the dilemma of whether or not their child is mature and responsible enough to be staying home alone.

Luckily, there is no direct law stating when a child can be left on their own for a little while. This means the act of leaving a child home alone itself is not illegal. However, a parent can run into complications if by leaving the child alone, the child stood a more than likely chance of getting hurt. In those instances, a parent could be charged with neglect. If taken to court, the judge would likely default to the parent’s reasoning and thoughts on the matter. After all, parents are the best experts on how responsible and mature their children are.