Home alone?

Sometimes you just need to leave them alone for a bit.  What should you do to make sure they're safe?
Sometimes you just need to leave them alone for a bit. What should you do to make sure they're safe? Getty Images/iStockphoto

How long can a child be unsupervised?

We've all been faced with this difficult question at one time or another. Maybe you have one child home sick, and the school calls to inform you that the other child has come down with the same bug in math class. Or it's 100 degrees out, and you forgot to pick up cat litter in the supermarket run this morning. Or you just found out that your son got into that great magnet school that’s an extra 20 minutes away, but your daughter will still be in elementary school that starts an hour later. 

Can I leave the kid alone for a bit? Will the neighbors call protective services on me? Am I a bad person for wanting to make life a little less hectic? And how long is TOO long, anyway?

Parents can rest easy on at least one point: it's not illegal. In North Carolina, there is no law or statute that defines for a parent at what age a child can be left alone. Parents should therefore make their decision based on the maturity of their kids.

So that's a relief. However, parents who do choose to leave their kids alone should establish rules and expectations for behavior while they are gone. One good way to do this: have a written emergency plan and phone numbers readily available for your children to refer to while you're away. (This is good practice for kids anyway, even if you are a hermit.)

But answers to the remaining question, "how long is too long?" are a bit fuzzier. Age and maturity play into the decision, as well as how well a child deals with separation issues. In an effort to apply some science and math to finding an answer, we at TriangleMom2Mom invite you to take our survey at this link. We'll post the results and your thoughts next week.

Until then -- make sure the rules are posted, and the oven is off...

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