Home Alone at the End of Summer

In many communities there is a known gap between the end of summer camp and the start of school, and as a result, many parents struggle with the dilemma of what age is appropriate to leave their child home alone.  So what are the rules?  Where can I find them?  What should a parent/caregiver do? 

The Law:  At what age can a child be left home alone?  Excellent question, but don’t expect much help from lawmakers.  

Illinois requires children to be 14 years old

Oregon requires youth to be over the age of 10

Maryland states children must be 8 or older

Guidelines: The focus, so often, is based solely on a child’s age, not a child’s maturity, and since all children mature at different rates, hopefully that’s the reason we can’t get a definitive standard.  Child development can be complicated; it varies widely and includes physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and moral ability.  So start by asking yourself the following questions:

Circumstances and skills: When a child is left alone for the first time there are many considerations to gauge.  What would your child do, how might he/she act?   Ask yourself the following:

Tips:  So by now you’re probably a little nervous, but if your child seems ready, start slowly.  


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Monthly Messages are brought to you by the Tompkins County Youth Services Department, a proud partner of The Community Coalition for Healthy Youth.  

If you have further questions or comments about this message or would like information on how to become involved with the Community Coalition for Healthy Youth, please email ahendrix@tompkins-co.org

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For more information on-line, go to Links – Tips for Families, Parents and Youth Workers