The controversial video of a young child left alone in a parked car left many enraged. Netizens who commented on the footage asked collectively: Why would a parent do such a thing to her child who is barely 2 years old? Human decency and common sense tell us that you never leave a child unattended — not in the car, pool, or at the park. Never.
We do want, however, to raise our children to be independent, and it does mean leaving your child on his own at some point. So at what age can you start trying to see if your child can handle himself home alone?
Children age 7 and below should never be left alone at home at all. Babies benefit a lot from playing alone, as long as their play area, crib or playpen is safe. If a baby is taking a nap, make sure the sleeping area is safe. The bed should have a firm mattress with a fitted sheet and without pillows or blankets. Baby monitors can be a reassuring tool at this age.
Toddlers and preschoolers love to explore their surroundings. Children this age are naturally curious and regularly like to test "what would happen if I do this." We need to let go of them to have this learning experience. Making your h0me "child-proof" can be a happy solution, but you or a caregiver still needs to be within an arm's length from your child. You should still be able to see or hear what's happening and spring into action when needed.
Children ages 8 to 12 are capable of being left alone for no more than an hour and half. "In general, most children can be left alone for an hour or so between 8 to 10 years of age," Dr. Tasha Howe, assistant professor of psychology at Humboldt State University," told Fatherly. If a grade-schooler is left alone at home, say, after school, you need to set strict rules. Have them call you the moment they get home, and let them follow a schedule for homework, chores, snacks, or TV time.
Of course, this is not a clear-cut rule. Each child is different, and you can better assess and gauge your child's maturity. Ask these questions to help you evaluate: Can your child follow instructions? Does he support the rules even if you're not around? Are there other kids in the house and how old? Does he need special care or have special needs?
Kids in this age range, however, are not mature enough to handle an emergency if one arises, according to the U.K.'s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). So ask these fundamental safety questions: How safe and secure your home? How safe is your neighborhood? How long you'll be gone? How much time would it take you to arrive home in case of an emergency?