Is Your Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?
There is no specific age when children are ready to stay home alone because children mature at different rates. It is most important to know if your child feels comfortable being home alone and has the prudence to handle an emergency.
Legally, Florida does not specify an age a child has to be to be left home alone (according to the Department of Human Health & Services).
The following are common principles to follow when determining the age range at which children may be left alone at home, along with considering age and maturity levels:
- 7 and under – Should never be left alone for an extended time. This includes leaving children alone in automobiles, playgrounds, and backyards.
- 8 to 10 years – Should not be left alone for more than 1 or 2 hours and only be left alone during daytime and early evening hours.
- 11 to 12 Years – Can be left alone for up to 3 hours, but not late at night or in conditions that require the child to be responsible in a way they are not yet suited for.
- 13 to 15 years old – Can be left unattended but not overnight.
- 16 to 17 years old – Can be left unattended (in some cases, for up to two consecutive overnight periods).
Having a conversation with your child is the best way to begin understanding if they are ready to be left home alone. Listen to the child’s feelings and concerns. Starting self-care may not be a good idea during a period of increased stressed such as a move to a new home, a divorce, or death in the family. Build up hours gradually by leaving your child briefly to run an errand or arranging to arrive home fifteen minutes later than usual from work. With practice you will both be ready for him/her to spend longer periods of time alone and you can plan a regular schedule of self-care.