The Rules for Being Home Alone

Here in NC, the magic age where you can leave your child home alone without having the cops called on you as a bad parent is age 8.

Which means that my about-to-turn-9-this-week oldest child has been talking about being home alone for about the past year and a half.

home alone

We talked basics like not letting anyone else in the house or even opening the door. Not letting anyone know he was home alone. How to call us in case there was an emergency. Which neighbor he could go to if he needed something or got scared.

But, I never really saw a reason to leave him home alone. It’s not like Hubs and I could leave him for a few hours while we went on a date- there are still his two younger brothers to consider. And while my oldest can stay alone, he can’t be in charge of younger kids without an adult in the house.

But last week, he got really sick one day after school. And while he seemed okay (if a little tired) the next morning, he had to stay home because I follow our school’s “puke free for 24 hours before returning to school” rule. It was cold and rainy and gross out, so I asked him if he’d rather just stay in his pajamas and in bed while I took his brothers to school. I knew that I would only be gone for about 20 minutes and he’d most likely just go back to sleep, so I figured it would be a good first “home alone” experience.

And then it was time for me to leave. And even though we’d talked about all the major rules and emergency procedures, bizarre rules started occurring to me.

Like “Don’t turn on the oven.” Even though he’d never turned on the oven before and wouldn’t have a reason to.

And “Don’t put anything in your mouth that isn’t food.” Not that he actually does this, but what if he did and then he choked? Or on second thought “Don’t even eat anything while I’m gone because you might choke.”

I was a little worried he’d strain himself from all the eye-rolling, but I finally had to leave or the littles would be late for school.

Of course, he did just fine. And I left him again for afternoon pick ups that day, too. Though when he asked to stay home at night instead of going to his brothers’ basketball practices, I said no. Taking this in baby steps here.

Have you left your child home alone yet? How old were they the first time you did?


  1. I think you have to be 12 to stay home alone where I live. At least – that’s what my parents always told me. 
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  2. I’ve done the same with Cady. Just for thirty minutes or so while I run to get milk at the grocery store or to drop James at school if she was sick. She wants to ride the bus home in the afternoons and stay by herself until David gets home, which would be about 30 – 45 minutes, but for some reason I can’t pull the plug on that.
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    • I’d have a hard time with that one, too. I guess because it would be on such a regular basis. I was about 9 when I did that in the afternoons, though.

  3. I’ve done that with my 8 year old, but only the 10 min run to school sort of thing. Now when they can walk to school along…that’s another story…I’m thinking 30-ish;)
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    • We live really close to the school but they’d have to cross a crazy-busy road to get there, so they have to deal with me driving them every day. Forever.

  4. Did you show him Home Alone as a cautionary tale?  ;)

  5. Such a great topic, Shell! This is one of things that definitely depends on the child. I honestly didn’t let my oldest stay home alone until he was 12. Now the boys are 15 and 8. I haven’t left them home alone together yet. I’m definitely ready to and think they’d be fine! But I’m not sure about my oldest managing the youngest yet. I know lots of people will probably say it’s long overdue, but in this case there have been special circumstances, and my oldest just hasn’t been ready for this kind of responsibility yet. My husband and I joke and say the younger one is going to end up babysitting the older one!
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    • I definitely think it has to be the right time for the child in consideration, not just a magic age where it’s okay for all of them to stay home without a parent.

  6. My daughter is ten, and we have just recently done a couple of test runs similar to yours. A quick grocery store trip that needed to happen early in the morning – we were back in 30 minutes and she was fine. A trip to the bank – same thing. We finally worked our way to letting her stay home alone for about an hour and a half the other night when we had an unexpected complication come up. The power went out while we were gone!! Thankfully it came back on after a few minutes, and she wasn’t even phased by it. She said, “a flashlight works just as well for reading, and who needs tv when you have books?” when I asked her if she was scared or worried.
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  7. Wonder what the age is in Virginia? Glad he did well!
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  8. My son was left alone for short periods at 9. Now that he’s 11 we can leave him for a couple of hours if need be.  He prefers to stay home if we’re going shopping. He’s a typical boy and does not care to shop unless he’s getting a new video game.
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  9. I left Cade home alone almost EVERY stinkin’ day while I took Cass to school when he was in afternoon Kindergarten! LOL He knew the drill…. but besides that- hardly ever leave even my 10 year old alone! They don’t like to be left alone because they know too much, and they are scared. Maybe a good thing? Not sure- but I’ll take it! :)
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  10. My son has just turned 7, so we aren’t quite at the stay at home alone stage yet. He stays in the house while I take trash to the dumpster or check the mail (we live in an apartment complex), but it takes about 5 minutes and he reads a book on the couch the whole time. I don’t know what the legal age is here in NV, but I’m sure it’s coming up. That’s why I’m starting early with just a couple minutes. He knows the rules; we repeat them every time I go to the dumpster. Even though it’s 5 minutes, if he knows the rules now I hope it’ll make it easier to remember them when it’s 20 or 30 minutes.
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  11. We gave our daughter a house key at age 8, for just in case we didn’t make it home in time to meet her after school. Things stayed that way for a few years, probably only alone for a little while right after school. But now she’s 13 and her brother is almost 8. They both have their own keys and we now are able to leave them both home alone if we feel the need. It’s very weird, but also very freeing. Neither of them seem phased by it at all.
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  12. I think it will be easier when it’s my youngest who is 8, since he’ll have two big brothers to watch out for him.

  13. NC rocks for this!  As a singe mom down here, it would be really hard to never be able to leave my kids on occasion to run to the store, or go for a quick jog on the weekends when they are home.  My big rule is no eating and no one goes into the kitchen.  Too many dangerous things in there.  And My daughter has a cell phone – so we can always reach each other.  There is at least a little bit of comfort in that.   
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  14. My son will probably need an adult around for a long time.
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  15. I think 18 might be a good age? I’ve never really thought about it, but I think I was around 9 when my parents started leaving me alone. I had to start laughing when you started yelling out last minute rules – that might happen to me.
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  16. My older son is 7 and makes pretty bad decisions on a regular basis. Let’s slide down the stairs on our bellies head first! Lets leap from one piece of furniture to another without touching the floor!  Sadly, I think it will be a few years for him… Like maybe 10 or so ;) 
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  17. Not a set age here … more of a when you think the child comfortable or repsonsible enough.
    Was a great day when Chelsea did the babysitting course and I could leave her here with Tas without paying for a sitter!
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  18. It’s interesting how different states have different ages, but I think it’s important to know your child and his/her personality. Some kids are more mature and responsible than others. Some not so much. Even between my two boys (ages 9 and 7), I see huge differences!
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  19. I can’t even comprehend Home Alone for an extended period of time! I was surprised to see PA doesn’t have a minimum age.

  20. Eight?! I just can’t imagine.. EIGHT! But I guess some places that is the norm… What if I NEVER want to leave my kids alone…. too helicopter-parent-ish of me?! ;) 
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  21. I don’t even know what the age is for that to be ok in our state. But 8 is not even close to what I would be comfortable with!! YIKES!! I tend to be overprotective though. :)
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