9 07/31/2012 parenting Tweens & Teens

Home Alone

I’m almost duplicating my titles…
I wrote earlier in the month about the possibility that Sean and I might never be empty nesters.
This post is about Cam.

He is 11 and lately we have started giving him more independence by allowing him the privilege of occasionally staying home alone.
It started at the end of his grade 5 year (this past school year). I would let him ride his bike home if I stayed at the Park with the younger two. He would be home on his own for about 15 minutes.
It was a good test for him to prove that he could follow our rules for being alone:

  • no cooking anything on the stove, microwave or toaster oven
  • lock the doors when you get inside
  • don’t answer the phone unless it Mom or Dad
  • do not answer the door
  • NOBODY is to know you are alone
  • no XBox live when you’re alone.

Last week I wanted to take Cuyler and Eva out to a bookstore. Cam didn’t want to go. I thought it was a good opportunity to show him that I trusted him and that I thought he would be just fine on his own for longer than 15 minutes. We went through all the rules.
When I told him I might be an hour, a look of nervous excitement came over his face.
Really?? Oh wow. Okay but what if it thunders?
“If you get scared and want me to come home, call me and I’ll come home right away.”

I wasn’t going far at all. I would have walked but the sky was threatening rain so I drove. I was a 2 minute drive away. He knew how close I was going to be and I think that took away any apprehension he may have had.
He did good and I was proud of him. It probably won’t happen too often, but now I know I can trust him to stay safe if I do have to leave him.

Even though the boys are only 18 month apart, Cuyler’s interests are closer to Eva’s. Cam is getting older and not often wanting to do the things they want to, so this could work out well as we move along in life. I wouldn’t even consider leaving either of his siblings in his care for a few more years, but for now this is a big step for us!
Finally. Something is easier. Another milestone. Hallelujah!

What do you think – is 11 a good age to start?
Are your kids older? How old were they when you let them stay home alone?

  • Tracey

    I’ve left Oliver for short jags (10 – 15 mins) by himself in the house, because he didn’t want to drop his sister off at school with me on mornings when he had no school… he was fine. I think as long as HE is fine, then I’m probably okay too. He’s only eight though – I wouldn’t leave him for longer just yet, especially if I had far to go. He is starting to go to the corner store with a small group of friends… only when 11 & 12 year olds are with him, though. and not on their bikes. Baby steps.
    It’s a good thing you’re doing, Irish! And good for Cam!!

  • Sara

    I have left my 9 year old son home alone for short periods. I have even left him with his 7 year old brother for 30 minutes. It went well and I will do it again. I think it’s important for them to become independent! I would never leave him with my three year old though…. I can barely handle her, so I’m sure he can’t!

  • Sara

    Great baby steps Christine….it’s perfect. Cam is such a good kid – he can totally handle it!

  • Christine

    I totally get that Erin!
    It’s such a bumpy road to be on in regards to parenting.
    I think Kim (above commenter) hit the nail on the head – just because we aren’t ready doesn’t mean they aren’t ready.
    I think I started letting Cam ride to the park without an adult around the same age (9) but the rule was he could never be alone. He always had to be with at least one friend. I had to know who he was with and he had a set time to be home.
    The first few times I was *very* anxious until he came home.
    I had to get to a point where I trusted our parenting and that we had instilled the skills and common sense he needs to make good decisions and stay safe while he was away from home.
    It’s just a part of parenting that has to happen. Letting the leash out is so difficult but necessary.
    I just keep thinking – in 5 years Cam will be driving and I’ll wish he was still riding his bikes around town!

  • Erin

    Great post. I don’t want to leave my kids on their own at home, but I often wonder about letting my daughter (9yo) go to the park with her friends without an adult. An I a bubble wrap mother?! Her friends see to be riding bikes and going to the park on their own already, and the thought terrifies me. Help!

  • Amy

    I leave Owen home alone now for short periods of time. I also leave his little brother with him if I am close by. I teach at their school which is right around the corner from our house. If I have a staff meeting they go home for an hour together. The same rules apply in our house and we go through them every time. So far it has been great. I think 11 is a good age to get started.

  • kim

    OMG!!!!!! FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!! I wish more parents would do the same. Start small. We’re not talking leaving the kid overnight to fend for themselfves (though my 14 yr old thinks she can, she will NOT be left alone for the weekend while we attend a wedding this summer)
    Just because some parent’s may not be ready to leave their kids alone doesn’t mean their children aren’t ready. It gives them such a sense of confidence and self-esteem.
    The babysitting course can be taken at 11. and babysitting usually starts around this age and for sure by 12. If the world thinks a child can mind another child (not necessarily a sibling) I think the child should have been given the opportunity to first mind themselves.

  • Kath

    I should’ve added – it’s also dependent on the child and their comfort level, as well as your own comfort level. No one perfect age for each child 🙂

  • Kath

    Mine are girls, and maybe that’s somehow different, but Charlotte had her Babysitter’s Certificate before she turned 11! She doesn’t babysit a lot, but I have been very comfortable with her being on her own since she was in grade five, so eleven yo. I left her on her own for shorter periods when she was 10 as well. Now Maddy is 9 and she is comfortable for short times on her own at home. She started at the end of grade 3 staying home for 20 minutes or so after I left for work, then I would call her and say “time to go to school” and she would lock up and ride her bike to school on her own. She loved the independence!
    There is a good course kids can take with Childsafe Canada (and the older ones go with younger siblings) called “Home Alone”. I think they can register at 10.

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