Should Your Child be Staying Home Alone?

It’s hard to believe that summer break is just around the corner.

For most students, it’s the most anticipated time of the year – 
But for parents, it can create quite a bit of stress about leaving their child home alone.

Emily Medalen spent the day researching ND state law, and talking to local parents about what they do with their kids in the summer. 

There are guidelines provided by the Department of Human services about keeping your kids home alone.

But, since no two children are the same, they say every family should have their own set of rules to make sure everyone stays safe.

“It just really depends on the child,” says Kathleen Wrigley, Bismarck, Mom of 3.

Deciding whether or not your child is ready to stay home alone can be a tough call to make.

“We have fears that are real, and so every family just has to decide for themselves,” says Wrigley. 
“Maybe you do a short trip to the grocery store and back, and check in with them and see how it went before you start leaving them for longer periods of time,” says Jennifer Wetsch, Child Protection Services Supervisor, Morton County.

Wetsch says for a majority of kids, you can start doing this around age 9.

“At 8 years old, your child probably isn’t mature enough,” she says.
There’s no state law in North Dakota that says you have to be a specific age to stay home, or even to babysit another child. According to the department of human services, communication with your child plays the most important role in knowing whether they should stay home without you or not.
“I kind of went by what their comfortability level was,” says Wrigley.

Talking to your child and establishing some rules for when you’re away is the best way to start.

“Don’t answer the door, or look out the window before you answer the door if you’re not expecting anyone,” says Wetsch.

And until they reach around age 11 or 12, they shouldn’t be left alone for more than a couple of hours.

“Full days at home at my own youngest child’s age, 10 years old, would not be at all safe for her or wise for me,” says Wrigley.

Wetsch says some of the other most important things to keep in mind are your child’s maturity, emotional health, and the safety of your neighborhood.

There is also a very helpful chart of child supervision guidelines from the department of human services.
This even touches on leaving kids alone in vehicles, overnight, and more.

To see the full chart, click the link below.

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/casscountyextension/pdfs/child-supervision-guidelines

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