The results of our survey are in! Thanks to everyone who participated – you had some good insights and comments, and you provided us with some valuable data. We’ve established that the rules about what the kids are allowed to do (appliances? Snacks? TV/computer?), as well as all emergency phone numbers, need to be written down, posted prominently and communicated well. After that, it’s judgment time.
Not too surprisingly, the younger the child, the less time they should be allowed to stay by themselves. Only about 21% of TriangleMom2Moms would leave a 3-to-5-year old alone at all, and even those mature, responsible children should only be alone for a maximum of 15 minutes.
9- to 11-year-olds, on the other hand, can be trusted to take care of themselves for a while. The majority (87.5%) of our respondents think these kids should be fine for at least 20 minutes. A surprisingly large percentage, 17%, would leave a responsible almost-tween for more than an hour.
Be very careful with 6- to 8-year-olds
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The 6- to 8-year-old segment sparked the most disagreement among our readers. Fully 42% of respondents would not leave them alone for more than five minutes, but of the remaining 58%, there was no firm consensus as to how much longer than that was acceptable. The best that can be said about this group would seem to be “use your judgment. “
If you have a child in this age range and are trying to make a decision, or if you’re still wrestling with the idea for an older or younger child, we’ve put together a framework to help you decide. Start with the answer “5 minutes” and adjust according to the following five factors:
- Maturity. How well does your child behave when there’s nobody watching? Subtract 5 minutes for every “naughty” incident that stands out in your mind in the past year, and add 5 minutes for every good one.
- Good kid influences. Does your child have good friends within walking distance? Add 5 minutes if so.
- Good neighbors. Do you have good relationships with the neighbors? Add 2 minutes for each house on your block that you are on good terms with.
- Neighborhood. Add 5 minutes if your neighborhood is in a low-crime area.
- Health issues. Subtract 10 minutes if any of your kids currently are taking any medicine (including Benedryl!).
For more information , , as well as our reader comments. Good luck!