home alone

Like many of you, I have a special place in my heart for Kevin McCallister, the young protagonist in the blockbuster series “Home Alone”. That kid is resourceful like no other. He masterfully keeps his house safe and effectively outwits the villains using creative and imaginative methods that would elude most adults. All turns out for the best in these movies and his parents are none the wiser. That’s Hollywood, of course, and not the situation that many parents face now that summer is in full swing, some with no viable options for daycare.

When is it okay to leave a child home alone?

The short answer is “it depends”. Washington does not have a minimum age requirement, although most experts agree that age 12 is a good place to start. A parent must also consider a child’s maturity, appreciation of danger and risk, and ability to reach out to safe adults in the event of emergency.

A great resource for parents is the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Website and online guide entitled “Home alone: When can you safely leave children by themselves”. This publication provides some common sense suggestions and considerations for parents thinking about leaving a child home alone.

Ask these questions before leaving your child home alone:

  • Does  your  child  express fear or apprehension about being left at home alone?
  • Does  your  child  typically be trusted to follow  your  instructions  and  rules?
  • Is your child typically truthful with you?
  • Would your child be able to keep calm in the event of an  unexpected  or  emergency  situation?
  • Would your child know how to dial  911,  give  their  full  name  (and  yours),  street  address  and  phone  number,  and  explain  the  situation?

Parents who have a parenting plan should first determine whether there are any restraints on leaving a child alone or other requirements before doing so. Leaving a child home alone may not be right for every child, but in some cases, can be a valuable learning and developmental experience for both parent and child.  Call us now if you have questions about whether your parenting plan limits your ability to leave a child home alone or contains other requirements for supervision.

A great family law attorney will walk you through the changes in your life with skill and compassion. At Tario & Associates, P.S., we have been practicing family law since 1979 and have helped thousands of Bellingham families settle their legal needs. Please contact us today for a free consultation. We are here to help!