Tuesday

Is there a standard age when a child is permitted to be home alone?

Received Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Is there a standard age when a child is permitted to be home alone? And what does a parent take into consideration? Do different rules apply if there are younger siblings at home? Is there an age at which time you can safely leave younger children in the care of older children? Is this different during the day and at night? At what if you are traveling? Any assistance you have in sorting this out would be much appreciated. My spouse thinks I am paranoid, but I feel that since we can easily afford childcare, that there is no reason to leave our tween children in a hotel room at night when we go out. We will after all be in a foreign country. He is under the impression that they will be content to enjoy the in room movies and snacks but I know how children like to wander. Anyone have advice? I am tired of being made to feel nuts because I believe in taking the appropriate measures for our children. My spouse's argument is that Madeleine McCann was three and our children are "older and sensible". Rather than attempting to convince him to err on the side of caution, is there a legal standard that I can provide to him? This is a family vacation and already he is focused on that time which will be separate from the children. (!!)

41 comments:

jmt said...

I can understand your husband wanting to focus on the time alone with you on this vacation. Why don't you tell him that unless your tweens have a sitter, YOU will not be able to enjoy any of your couple-time. Wink wink. You know if hotel sex is at stake, he'll be on the phone so fast your head will spin.

BTW, I don't think 11/12 year-olds are ready to watch themselves, especially in a foreign country.
In a couple of years you can start letting them prove their trustworthiness while you go out for a little while, but not in these circumstances.

Anonymous said...

My God, woman, didn't you hear about that McCann kid getting stolen from the resort? Is your husband stupid? If they are "tweens" I am assuming that they are under 18. I would not leave my child under 18 unsupervised in a foreign country. You are mental if you do.

Kate said...

Laws differ in states but in most states there is not a limit as to when you can leave a child home alone. I believe that no child under 10 should ever be left alone. I even think this is a little bit on the young side. With any child it is important to talk to them about being home alone and make sure the child is comfortable. It would be helpful to leave them home at first for short periods of time. (ex. you run an errand for an hour and see how your child does) Personally I would not leave children alone in a foreign place such as a hotel unless they were 13 or older. Children may have the best intentions that could possibly go wrong. Also, there is a difference between night and day. Some children are comfortable being alone during the day, and not at night. How could you be assured that the children stay in the hotel room while you are gone? Does the hotel room have a balcony? I would only leave the children home if they stay home alone at your home on a regular basis and you 100% trust their capability to do the right thing in that situation. If you have a gut feeling about getting childcare, stick with it! Better be safe than sorry.

Kate said...

p.s it would be helpful to have constant communication with your chldren if you do decide to leave them alone in the hotel...

Anonymous said...

jmt-
your advice is usually dead on but in this case we are talking about a family vacation. For someone who can afford childcare without any problem.

I wonder how many non child vacations he takes per year?

So let's just get past this, you married a douchebag. Sucks to be your child. Probably sucks to be you. But stand up to the asshole. Do not leave your children alone.

There are relatively few situations where it is okay to leave your children alone in this day and age. Too young, they can't look out for themselves, old enough to look out for themselves and you know that somewhere not too far away there is some predator lying in wait. Nevermind the curiousity of children.

I was 15 the first time my parents left me alone in a hotel. And it was a really nice hotel in California in 1980. Things have changed these days. It's sad but true.

When your children get older, they will realize Dad is a narcissistic tool but they will cherish the fact that you went the extra mile for them.

Anonymous said...

This is a hard one. I have been babysitting alone with children since I was 11 years old and this was a 3-4 day a week job from after school until about 7pm, when I was more like 14 it was 4-6 days a week and until about 9/10pm. BUT this is different when I am in the town I grew up in, my parents only a few miles away and being in another country. I think that a child who is 14/15 is going to not want childcare and I think that is reasonable. But under 14..... I would be very cautious about leaving them alone, and maybe a hip sitter would be a better option. :) Good luck.

Anonymous said...

What do you think your children would do if: someone knocked and said they were the maid, someone knocked and said I'm the hotel manager, and your parents asked me to bring you down to the resturant, the fire alarms go off?
If you can't afford a babysitter, stay home!

beth o. said...

Your children are tweens and they can't be included in the nighttime activities? On a family vacation? In 6 or so years, they will be off at college. This is the most insane post I have yet to read.

Is your husband a crackhead? A swinger? Why can't your children be around him on a
F A M I L Y V A C A T I O N?

Anonymous said...

Why are you married to this guy? He must make a helluva living because he sounds like a grade A ass.

I should know, I spend four years married to a self centered dick. We had two children, a boy and a girl. He didn't respond to them when they ran to him at the end of the day. He pushed them aside. He disappeared on weekends to be with his buddies. We divorced by the time our oldest was 4. The split was initially amicable and we had joint custody. I met an amazing man with three of his own children. We were married within a year. By then, my husband with joint custody saw his children for perhaps 2 hours a month. By the time my children were 6, my current husband went through the system to adopt my children. The children's natural father was eager to sign the children over and off. They crimped his style.

I am a mother first. Today, we have a family of five. And I am happy because I am with a man who knows that it means a lot to me to be a good parent.

If you are traveling to a foreign country and your children are too old for a sitter, simply have a sitter present. She doesn't even need to interact with the children. Tell her to bring a book. Just make certain there is an English speaking adult who can take care of the children.

Anonymous said...

I usually think the posters here are mean-spirited and nasty, but in this case I agree that your husband is an ass.

He sounds like my ex.

Insist on a sitter. You will never forgive yourself if something happens to those kids. They are all you have, from my standpoint.

What's his issue? He'll still be able to get his drink on because they'll be out of his hair.

Anonymous said...

You just made me feel incredibly fortunate. My DH works until 9 or 10 most nights and travels. He gets little vacation time and gladly takes it as a family vacation. By the time he gets home most nights, I am the only one awake, so we have our time. It amazes me what some women will put up with. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on the age of the child. We are going to Florida in sept right before school. We have 2 girls, 14 and 6. The 14 yr old will watch the 6 yr old at night. she will be instructed not to answer the door, we will have the key, not to answer the hotel phone, she will have her cell.

fg said...

I do know that in the state of Arizona, it is illegal to allow a child under the age of twelve to be home alone. I would imagine other states have laws regarding this issue.

Anonymous said...

I can almost see the 14 yr old with the 6 yr old. However, I think it would be a different story with a 14 and 12 year old or 13 & 11 year old. You know that age. They are experimenting, testing limits. And the place to do that would not be in a foreign country. Better safe than sorry.

Cant imagine what your husbands problem is. We have to time our vacations so that we can have relatives watch/help with two sets of twins. Some people just complicate things. Be grateful that you can afford childcare. Do you know how awful those parent looked for not getting childcare? We might have more sympathy for them if the mother was working and couldn't afford childcare. But they were on a luxury vacation and soaking up all the luxuries for themselves. I hope their other children get taken away from them. They don't deserve to be parents.

Anonymous said...

I just want to comment that I also had a father who seemed to be chomping at the bit to get "alone time" with my mom on the "family" vacations we took (which were mostly miserable - and no, we're not close now). Anyway, I'm 4 years older than my sister and was first left alone with her in a hotel room when I was 15 or 16. And we of course left our room and went to the hot tub to "meet guys", etc...my parents had no clue. If I had been a 'tween I wouldn't have snuck out to go meet guys, of course, but I can't imagine I would have stayed in the room watching movies, either. How freaking boring. Your kids can do that at home. Mark my words, if you leave them alone in the room they WILL leave the room. Who knows where they'll go, but they will leave. And if they happen to be the unusual type of kids who will stay in the room? How sad for them, confined to a hotel room on VACATION. Hire a sitter. Of course. I really don't understand your husband's objection to this, since if you can afford a vacation you can certainly afford a few more bucks for your peace of mind and your kids' safety.

Anonymous said...

When on vacation and in a strange place, the rules are different for sure.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes men don't understand child development and that children test limits. Geez why does everyone need to rip this man apart. This post is not supposed to be about the father.

Anonymous said...

To 8:32 - where did "jmt" miss the mark? Seems to me that the both of you agree. (?)
Anyway ... I believe my state allows you to leave a child around the ages of 8-10 yrs. alone for no more that 10-15 min. For 11-13 yrs.(depending on maturity), it's 15-30 min. (This was brought about because of the "latch-key" kids.)
You say you have "Tweens" .... I say - GET A SITTER! Especially in a foreign country .... this is most definately not the place to trust your kids alone for ANY amount of time. I hope you tell your "DH", to stick it - YOU know whats best for your kids. Don't screw this one up.
Have a great Holiday!

Kelly said...

OP, you are NOT nuts. To be on the safe side bring a sitter to the foreign country so that you guys don't return home telling a hellish story. Don't back down. Sounds like hubby has a one track mind. It is nice that you are doing all the thinking, otherwise things could go wrong.

Law inforcement in some countries can be hard to deal with. I am not going to name names, but in some countries, you have to bribe the police just to file a report.

As far as how old is old enough to stay home alone in your HOME town, it depends on how trustworthy the kids you are dealing with are. If you think the kid will buzz in anyone who rings the buzzer, or anyone who says "pizza delivery", then the kid is not ready to be home alone.

I once took care of a young lady aged 12, who seemed to have some kind of attraction to matches. So whereas the average 12 year old is capable of being home alone, this one could not be trusted.

Anonymous said...

In California it is 13.

jmt said...

Once I was on a jury for a murder trial. We actually got sequestered and had to share hotel rooms with our fellow jurors. The young woman I had to share with repeatedly tried to sneak out of our room to hook up with a couple of guys on the jury, and there were ARMED GUARDS IN THE HALLWAY to watch us. I think if adults can act like irresponsible kids, then kids will certainly act that way given a chance, and should definitely have a sitter (gun not required).

OP said...

Thank you for all of your answers. I was intentionally vague for fear that one of my friends- or worse family might recognize the specifics and know we are leaving for vacation this weekend. I will assert the need for a sitter. The hotel has a service. It is a very good and reputable hotel. Here is how it will go down. We will likely spend the days out with the children sightseeing around Lisbon. We will return to the room between 4-6 for a breather and figure out what we want to do. My husband hates making plans so that is the real problem. He will piss and moan about being on vacation if I ask him what time we want the sitter. If I prebook the sitter just to be there every evening at 6, he will complain about having to look at a stranger or worse, he will interntionally corrupt the plans. Believe it or not, except for his selfish me-me-me behavior while on vacation, he is a pretty great husband and father.

Anonymous said...

i think it totally depends on the kids maturity and where you are vacationing... i know i babysat around the neighborhood alone at 11 years old and i was fine, but it depends what country you are visiting and the security at the hotel.

Anonymous said...

I say just ignore the pissing and moaning and you do what is comfortable to you, whether that is pre-booking the sitter for every night at 6 or booking the sitter as you go.

Just ignore him! His attitude doesn't make any sense, so it shouldn't be given any attention.

Anonymous said...

oh Lisbon is beautiful. I dont understand why you are done with your children by 6 if they are tweens though. There is so much to do and see. I have a 7 and 10 year old and we went to Naples in February. We were all together all day long. We had a blast.

ble said...

Take your kids...leave your husband at home.

Anonymous said...

These unfortunate children--
they were born to a father who has no regard for anyone but himself and a mother who doesn't have a backbone.

Tragic. You must walk on eggshells around your husband to make sure he is happy. Let me guess, when the children were younger, you had to constantly keep them quiet or your husband would huff and puff?

Just thinking about a man like that makes rosie odonnell sound appealing.

If your going to marry a jackass, please dont have children. The children dont deserve to be made to feel like they are nothing but crimps in your style.

sick puppies= the two of you.

jmt said...

OP, I just realized that you are going to Lisbon which is about 280km from Praia da Luz - the resort town from which Madeline McCann was taken. Get a sitter!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness your children have you. You sound like a loving and conscientious mother. Do not be dissuaded by the heartless schmuck that is your husband. He probably treats his car better then he treats your kids. My ex did.

Pissed OFF Housewife said...

I think the law in Los Angeles is 14.

Red Cross has baby sitting classes, why don't you call them?

Guys love to know what the "rules" are.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I see nothing wrong with wanting to have a romantic mom-and-dad dinner occasionally while on vacation, if such a thing can be arranged. You don't say how long your trip away is, or how often your husband wants to be alone in the evening with you, but I think a nice dinner out, just the 2 of you, is not out of line at all. It's part of planning the trip, and he's asking for what he wants. Doesn't mean he's a total jerk (though he might be, I have no idea!) Couples need time to themselves once in a while, folks!

Whether or not your kids should be left alone depends on what your kids are like. If you don't trust them to stay put, then get a sitter to hang out with them. Or go out with your husband and tell the kids you will be calling the room at random times to check on them, and keep your activities fairly close to the hotel so you can get back quickly.

Anonymous said...

I do not think your husband is an ass.. most men do not realize when children are too young to be left alone. I do not think there is anything wrong with leaving your preteen at home alone if you start it off a little at a time. When you're in another country I do think you should have someone with them. There is nothing wrong with having alone time even on a family vacation. I have an 8 month old son and my husband and I still have our date nights. Alone time is healty in any relationship. If you don't a stranger to watch your children in another country, bring an older teenager along to keep them company. You don't have to tell the children she's their "babysitter" she's just a helper, to help you out with your trip. If you have the money get a sitter, there are too many bad people in the world that do bad things to even "older and sensible" children.

Anonymous said...

I'm 10:39 above. Just writing to add that it would be nice to have someone with them just in the very off-chance that someone gets hurt and needs help. If they're goofing around, and, say, someone falls off the bed and sprains something, the kids won't know who to turn to in a foreign country. Of course, you could leave them alone in this situation and carry and international cellphone with you so they could call you anytime. I think either way would be workable, depending on how responsible your kids are (you don't make any mention of this).

Anonymous said...

I do see something wrong with a husband who wants a child free night. It may not even be romance or you that is on his mind. I see a problem with a man who is so put upon by his own children. My husband treats our step children better. He gets 4 weeks of vacation per year. 1/2 of that is for family vacations and the other half are for us. (It makes us better parents and it's a helluva lot better than calling a vacation a family vacation and leaving your children stuffed in a hotel room while you are down in the chi chi hotel smoking and drinking).

If you are going to Lisbon, my guess is you are not staying in a dump. Most of the nicer hotels go out of their way to make youngest guests feel welcome. The Concierge is always close at hand – to help plan family friendly outings or to help arrange a babysitter.

My brother in law has 8 weeks of vacation per year. He takes 2 weeks with the family and bitches about it the entire time. He takes 3 weeks in golf vacations with the guys (to skeevey all inclusive wank fests like the Dominican Republic) and the rest of the time he does take my sister with him. But it is never about her.

Some men suck.
Some men don't.

Anonymous said...

I was an international flight attendant for 2 airlines many years and am the mom of 3 kids, ages 20, 14, and 5.

I cannot tell you all the stories I heard about stuff happening to flight attendants' ADULTS WHO TRAVEL FOR A LIVING, in hotels (rapes, etc.). Hotels are big places where strangers can come and go (through lobbies and up to the floors with rooms) as they please, and never mind many of the dangers you have at home you have in a hotel, i.e. fire, etc. And you don't have the familliar neighbor next door, for example, to keep an eye on your kid. (Don't rely on hotel staff to be terribly good or responsive in case of an emergency) Would your child know how to evacuate the hotel in case of fire? Is there a cell phone your child can reach you on? Can your child speak the language of the country you are traveling to? If the kid was 13, maybe...depending on their maturity and street-wiseness and how familiar they were with traveling or that country, foriegn countries, etc. but not at 11.
The first suggestion is a good one...tell hubby you wouldn't be able to relax.
Men are idiots...we live in lower Manhattan, NYC and on 9/11, when the towers were hit, I called my husband, who was at the dentist, and screamed "Go get the kids out of school!!!" His reply was "Can I just finish this (dental) appointment? I've been waiting an hour." I love him dearly but he's a dumb-ass. Follow your instincts.

Anonymous said...

"I would not leave my child under 18 unsupervised in a foreign country. You are mental if you do."

At first I thought that an extreme statement...18? Isn't that way too old? Then I remembered Natalie Halloway in Aruba.

Anonymous said...

There is a state law where I live and it is 13.

No matter what the law is, if your 13 year old is not dependable I would not leave them home by themelves.

If I were you I would not leave my 11/12 year old alone in a hotel in a strange country or state.

Mandarina said...

Sorry to disagree with most here, but I think parents nowadays are annoyingly overcautious. Also, many "vacation destination" foreign countries are no more dangerous than the US. It is fear that makes us believe this, not rational thought. Yes, the McCanns were incredibly irresponsible to leave three such very young children alone. But children mature at different rates, and by the time my older brother and I were 8 and 10, my mother and stepfather would often leave us alone with our baby brother when they went out for the evening. We were smart, knew not to open the locked door for anyone, even friends, knew 911, took care of our precious baby brother more meticulously than any teenage babysitter, and looked out for each other. In this day and age of information being too accessible, parents need to realize LIFE itself is dangerous. Watching over your child's every move until they turn 18 only does them a disservice in the end. Risk will always be an element of life. Use your common sense, take safety workshops with your children (check out www.kidpower.org) and realize there is only so much you can do to keep your child safe without robbing them of valuable experiences and lessons.

Anonymous said...

To 5:49AM, Re: "Men are idiots",

I couldn't agree with you more. Sometimes they don't think outside the box. When a small plane hit a residential tower in Manhattan last year, I called my husband right away and told him to come straight home after work. I called him knowingthat if I did not ask him to come home right away, he would go have a drink with friends despite the plane crash. My husband's reaponse was "Did the president say we should go home after work". I told him to go to hell, and that I have the kids and I will take very good care of them if this turns out to be a security emergency.

Our new emergency plan now is that if there is ever a security concern, I pack up the kids and go, while he waits for the president to tell him what to do. You know, I thought Hurricane Katrina taught us all a lesson about waiting for others to tell you what to do to protect oneself.

Anonymous said...

I am a month late on this response...just came across this as I missed it the first time around, but thought I'd post on the off-chance that others in this situation may come across this as randomly as I did...

I, too, was a flight attendant for many years. I remember reading something in a business-travellers' magazine about travelling with children. How about bringing baby monitors with you and having dinner downstairs in the hotel restaurant? It would alleviate the need for a sitter (which tweens would definitely NOT like), but you would still know what your children are doing. I remember being incensed when I read this article at the time, as the child in question was an infant, but it seems like something that would work well for older children.

Like the other flight attendant said, scary things happen in hotels. I personally would never leave a child under 16 alone in a hotel room, and then only for a short period...and I would NOT leave the hotel premesis.

mollywobbles said...

Okay if your children are immature which might be on your doing that as a 'tween' they'd wander and not listen to instructions then you can only blame yourself that you can't enjoy a night out. A couple of hours most tweens will be fine but if they're going to get scared and go looking for you then yeah leave them home so you can enjoy a vacation.