Ask Rene: Home Alone…. How Young Is Too Young?

Ask Rene:
Home Alone…. How Young Is Too Young? 

Hi Rene:

I have two young daughters, seven and eight-years-old and they are with their dad half of the time. I found out from my eight-year-old that they will be alone for 30 minutes to an hour each day they are with him because, after two years, he finally got the motivation to go get a job. ANYWAY…. there is no law in my state about the age of children being home by themselves; it is a case-by-case basis.

I want to get them a cell phone that is just for kids, like the Firefly. He has no home phone so there is no way to contact anyone if they have an emergency. That and I want to make sure they are able to call me when they get home from school and at night since he won’t let them use his phone. What is your opinion about kids their age having a phone of their own?  And, of course, what is your opinion about kids this age staying alone?

Worried Mom

 

Hi Worried Mom:

I think your signature is appropriate because, to be honest, I’d be a little worried too, if I were you. But it’s a common question and one we’ve dealt with before here on Good Enough Mother. Okay, so let’s break this down; here are the factors I would consider and then the action I would take if I were you. 

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ASSESS THEIR
MATURITY LEVEL

Creative Commons/Lyn Lomasi

The fact that the laws are different in different states certainly tends to complicate matters a bit (you can go here to see the numbers of states where there is no specified legal limit. Among those that do, none of them recommend under age eight). I suspect it’s because children mature at different levels and I believe that is truly the crux of the matter here. If the kids are left home alone, you want to know that they could handle themselves in the event of an emergency. Even though it’s only 30 minutes to an hour each day, seven and eight-years-old seems a little on the young side for that. They could be mature for their age but you (and your ex) are the people to best judge whether they are capable of handling unexpected situations.

Read more:  The GEM Debate: Teachers Texting Teens: Too Much?

 DEVISE A
SAFETY PLAN

Creative Commons/mweav31

If you do decide they can stay on their own for that time, you need a safety plan in place. That’s just a good idea, no matter what age the kids . A safety plan would include making sure they have a neighbor they could call on if they run into some trouble. But I am  more than a little worried that your ex doesn’t have a home phone; are your girls responsible enough to know where to find their cell phones  in an emergency?

Read more: Smart Phones And Kids: A luxury Or A Necessity?

 TALK TO
YOUR GIRLS

Creative Commons/P Shanks

Have either you or our ex-husband talked to the girls about how they feel about this? If so, what did they say? If not, why not? Sometimes I think we as adults get so caught up in making decisions that we don’t take into account the people who are most intimately impacted. Yes, the final decision will be yours to make but I do think they need to be asked. And they need to know that you will listen, even if they can’t affect the outcome.

Read more: Our Story Begins: A Very Particular Set Of Skills…

 TALK TO
EX-HUSBAND

Creative Commons/kiwanja

To be honest, this is the part of your letter that is most troubling to me. Why are you learning of this rather serious situation from your eight-year-old? Why didn’t your ex-husband mention it to you? Given that (and your above reference to him finally getting a job) it sounds like there’s poor communication between the two of you. I understand the hurt and pain in situations like this but that MUST be put aside for the safety of your children. So a bit of tough love here: everyone needs to grow up so your kids can so the same. Safely.

Read more: Ask Rene: I Want My Ex Back (But He’s Dating Another Girl!)

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I wish you the best of luck, mom. I know you can do this!

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Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create GoodEnoughMother.com . When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.

4 Comments

  1. Sandy Seale

    January 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I agree with Michelle. No matter how much you prepare them or talk to them if a real emergency occured (fire, break-in, one of them got hurt bad) they would probably just panic…..many adults do. And I wonder about their mental security too being all alone at that age & possibly scared. Kids try things when unsupervised (cooking, going outside, etc. even if they’ve been told not to) & I’d hate to tempt fate. I really question their dad’s judgement & wonder about other things he is lax about. I don’t think it matters what the law says either; this age is just too young period. I agree just having a phone would be the answer either. Hindsight is always a wonderful thing but when it comes to the safety of our children I would hate to look back & say guess that was a bad idea. It can’t cost that much to have someone watch them for that hour or so until he’s home. I personally think kids are much too precious to take a chance.

  2. Essie

    January 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I think this has to be an individu decision based on all the circumstances and maturity of the kids. I personally would not leave children this age alone (but my state forbids children under 12 from being left alone). I am also wary that her ex didn’t mention this but also that there isn’t a phone. I don’t have a land line but of I were to leave kids home (any age) I’d make sure a phone is available. What kind of safety plan doesn’t involve access to a phone? Thistles me think that the dad hasn’t thought it through. Finally (and this may not be an issue for these kids) they may memorize everything they are supposed to do for safety but are they ok together? My kids would be fighting the whole time and could get distracted if there was a real emergency.

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