come a long way since we were kids. For instance, if
mom wanted to check on her kid throughout the day, all she had to do was pick
up the phone and start dialing or, in my case, ring a bell on the neighbor's front porch.
Either way, she knew where her kids were at all times—even when she didn't.
My parents never
owned a car seat, nor did they pack peanut-free lunches or mind their language
when children were in the room. They made up their own rules, designed to keep
us alive, and that was good enough for them. But those days are
parents to follow nowadays are complicated and plentiful—many of which differ
from state to state. From the moment a child is born until the day they leave
for college, it's up to mom and dad to know the difference between recommended
procedure and what can actually get them in trouble with the law.
But summer is a
tough time for parents. Not everyone can afford camps, lavish resorts or time
off. Most of us can't even pay for a used tent to throw in the backyard
while we "work from home," which brings to light a recurring
question: How young is too young for kids to be left alone?
The answer, once
again, depends on where you live.
SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at
home alone. Age restrictions by state, however, don't always adhere to these
states don't have specific age requirements in place, others are more
Photograph by mom.me
Case in point:
New Mexico and Oregon both agree that 10 is the magic number for giving kids
the keys to the kingdom, whereas Maryland and North Carolina maintain that 8 is old enough. Meanwhile in Illinois, children must wait until they're 14 to celebrate this newfound freedom.
And then there
are states that simply can't make up their minds. Instead of setting an
appropriate age for kids to legally stay home alone, these states have
elected to play it unsafe with mere recommendations.
Age 12: Colorado,
Delaware and Mississippi
Age 11: Michigan
Age 10: Tennessee and
Age 9: North Dakota
Age 8: Georgia
Age 6: Kansas
Though city and
county ordinances within each state may have more definitive and restrictive
laws, the remaining 36 states seem to offer little advice on this subject.
paraphrase that: Deep down,
underneath all the chaos in the world today, we are all helicopter
parents to some degree. We hover from a safe distance and second-guess every decision being
made, especially when it comes to letting go of the wheel. But when it comes to leaving your kids home alone, you might want to wait until they're a little older and you can establish rules that you know they'll follow. Every kid is different, and so long as you don't run afoul of local laws, you know best when your kid is ready to be left home alone—even if it's just for a short time while you run to the store.
If your state is
one of the 36 that does not list a specific age requirement, contact your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office or child
welfare agency to learn more about local age guidelines that may exist in your area.