From about age 8 or so, my parents occasionally left me alone at home, or with my brother, who was two years older than me. At the time, this seemed perfectly reasonable. They never left us alone for long — just for a quick trip to the grocery store, or while running a few errands and the like. We were of course under strict orders to never, ever leave the household, open the door to strangers, or experiment with the stove when they weren’t around, and those simple ground rules seems to suffice. I also recall staying home from school sick a few times by myself around that age. My mom, who worked at an office just a few miles away, would call every few hours and come home at lunchtime to check on me, take my temperature, and generally survey the situation. I never once felt any anxiety whatsoever about this, and nothing bad ever happened during these brief periods I was left to my own child-like devices at home.
So why am I so freaked out at the idea of leaving my almost-10-year-old alone?
It’s a question I don’t have a good answer for, honestly. To this day I’ve simply never left her alone at home or thought I could do so, not even just to run to the grocery store five minutes away. Part of me thinks this is just absurd, motherly overprotectiveness on my part. Rationally, it seems that at nearly 10 years of age she is and should be more than capable of taking care of herself for a half hour while I grab some provisions at the market, or run out to pick up dry cleaning. I know I was at her age. I was before I was her age, in fact.
My gut, however, churns at the thought of actually doing it, and my mind floods with a thousand what ifs. It doesn’t matter if these what ifs are more than slightly hysterical (HOME INVASION!) or not, I just can’t seem to get past my lingering fears and trust that hey, she can totally handle this (and she can, I know this, intellectually).
So I’m asking you guys: at what age do you think it’s okay to leave kids alone, and for how long? How do you determine when and under what circumstances it’s okay to allow them to stay at home by themselves, and when you need a babysitter? Is there an age-to-length-of-time-alone guideline you follow? (And, also, please tell me I’m not alone in feeling weird about all this? Ehh?)
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