At what age do you leave your kids home alone at night?

I had a revelation the other day when my youngest daughter told me that she had spent the evening entertaining the guest. The guest in this case was the 19-year-old babysitter whom I was paying good money to! This is when I realized that my kids were probably fine at staying home alone and very likely would prefer it.

I have never known when it was the right age, but my eldest just turned 13 and the younger one is 10. They fight, but never to the point of bodily harm. They mostly amuse each other, or at least tolerate each other to the point that I am pretty sure nothing bad is going to happen.

When I started asking my friends about the age they left their kids home alone it varied a lot. Some started very young, others were happy to leave them alone, but not happy of having the kids put themselves to sleep, which is an interesting nuance I find!

I am sure it also depends on where you live. We live in an apartment building where, if anything did go wrong, the kids would have no problems going upstairs to knock on one of the neighbors doors. Possibly in a house in the countryside this would be different?

Anyway I would love to hear what others do. It might even be culturally different, like so many things?



Comments (8)

February 21, 2019

I love how you’re always one step ahead of me, Emilie 🙂 I hadn’t even got to thinking about the evenings for us (as with a toddler, it’s certainly a long way off…)
In our new street we have a little pool of neighbour teenagers who offer themselves for babysitting services. The youngest of these is just 13. So, I think it must be seen (at least by some) as totally normal to leave your child home alone in the evening before that age.

February 21, 2019

Hi Emilie,
I always enjoy your posts. The eldest of my three daughters is nine. Having moved from London to a country town on the other side of the world I still don’t like to let even her out of my sight in the playground. I’m constantly reminding myself that we are no longer in a big city. You get so used to clutching your children to you in London. One safely buckled into the pushchair, one instructed to never let go of the bar, another holding the other side of the bar. I would trust my nine year old to look after my five year old at home, but would not leave them. Hopefully I am ready to allow them to look after themselves when they want me to be!

Lizzy in Minnesota
February 21, 2019

Such an interesting question! My two girls are still quite young (4 and 2), but this is a topic my husband and I have been discussing: what is an appropriate age to let them stay at home alone? The funny thing, is that I began babysitting (and staying home alone in the evening with someone’s child!) when I was only 10. I think I would feel comfortable leaving my daughters home alone for the evening (not overnight, but until 11 or so) once my oldest is 12 or 13. We are fortunate to have close neighbors and I know if problems came up, they could go there. For me, it’s determining the age that my oldest would be able to stay calm and handle a stressful situation if anything came up; so I think it’s partly an emotional age more than a physical age. However, I think my Italian husband will have a harder time leaving them home alone (and in that sense I think it’s a cultural thing!).

February 21, 2019

Interesting topic, the quest of independence. My 6 years old wants to walk to school alone. I’m doing research of how to allow him to do so safely and are most of all Learning to entrust him and let go. 😉

Susanne in Germany
February 21, 2019

My two daughters, 6 and 9, happily stay at home when I go grocery shopping (their choice, not mine!). We discussed the rules (not to leave the house, not letting anybody in, no cooking) and it works just fine. I make sure I have my mobile on me so they can call at any time e.g. to ask if they can watch TV ;-).
In the evening a 12 year old neighbor babysits. However, we make sure we can be reached by phone at any time and that we can be home within 15-20 min should things go wrong.

Elizabeth Pope
February 21, 2019

As a mother of 3 daughters I have given this a lot of thought over the past few years now that my children are getting older… in the UK we have guidance from the social services and of course parents can take into consideration how mature their children are… what has always guided us is how a child would manage if something went wrong in a situation, such as a power cut, if a child they were looking after had an accident even something as simple as a fall or a burn or a cut… should it depend on how far away the parents are ? Personally we feel that the responsibility is a heavy burden if a child is being relied upon to act as an adult so this of course is a personal choice but has long term implications if a problem arises… My daughters are now 16, 13 and 9 and we started to leave them for a short time together for a number of hours a year ago… most of the time it works and occaisionally it doesn’t so again this is a personal choice!

Kate Coleman
February 22, 2019

Its an interesting debate and can vary so differently from parent to parent. I have a 6, 10 and 12 year old. I wouldn’t leave my 6 year old at home at any time, even with the older two. That has a lot to do with the dynamic of three not being great in our family. I trust my 12 (almost 13) year old at any time. I wouldn’t leave him overnight on his own but if we are out for dinner or something and won’t be back too late he is absolutely confident, as are we, in his ability to be sensible and feel it helps develop his independence and trust. I leave my 10 year old at home for up to two hours during the day only. He has all our numbers and more than neighbour he knows to go to with any problems. 🙂 My sister however seems to think I’m crazy. She has only just started letting her 14 year old stay at home for a few hours during the day…. (she lives in London).

May 5, 2019

This was an interesting article for me as I am debating when to leave mine alone just for a couple of minutes during the day! I hadn’t even thought of the evening. Got me thinking!

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