The question of when a child is ready to be left home alone is a complicated one for all parents. It depends on their age and maturity. It also depends on numerous other factors like for how long and what time of day you’re considering leaving them. Typically, parents gradually give kids increased time alone as they show that they can handle it.
If you’re separated or divorced, the question may come up sooner than it would if you were still together. If you’re the only adult in the home, any errand or appointment outside of school or daycare hours will mean either getting someone to care for them, bringing them along or –- as they get older — leaving them alone.
As with most parenting issues, it’s best when both of you can have the same rules. Otherwise, you’re going to have your child asking why they can stay home alone at one home but not the other. However, you may each have very different views on the matter.
Addressing the issue in your parenting plan
Whether your child is still too young to consider leaving them alone or you’ve already done it a few times but haven’t made it a regular practice, it’s a good idea to address the issue in your parenting plan.
How you address it is up to you. However, you probably want to at least agree on the training your child will get – for example, knowing how to call 911, not answering the door and being able to quickly find things like a fire extinguisher in both homes.
Further, you probably want to agree that neither of you will leave your child home alone without informing the other. If you have a right of first refusal clause in your parenting plan, you’re already agreeing to notify the other parent before calling someone else to care for your child.
By addressing the issue in your parenting plan when you’re discussing and negotiating other childcare matters, you’ll have legal guidance to help make sure you cover the important details as you work towards what is in your child’s best interests.