You might be surprised to learn, that there are no state laws on how long a child can be left alone, or at what age.
The Department of Human Services says there are, however, guidelines.
“I would recommend that parents do that incrementally. So, start with a short period of time. Start with half an hour. Start with an hour Extend that as you see how the child handles themselves,” said Marlys Baker, the Child Protection Services Administrator for the North Dakota Department of Human Services.
The department says children under four should have caregivers present at all times and kids under eight should always have a caregiver nearby. It’s only when they hit nine and 10 before they say a child can be left alone.
Baker says during the summer months, parents should be on high alert.
“As many of the early summer activities start winding down, and before school starts, children have a lot of time on their hands,” she said. “Where they’re not occupied with any structured activities or adult interactions, so they can become bored. And kids who are bored, often start getting into trouble.”
To help kids prepare to be home alone, and even ready to babysit younger children, the Missouri Valley YMCA has a class they can take.
“It’s really about how to be a responsible babysitter. So, they learn how to treat it like a business. To go into the homes and kind of interview the families, to do walk-throughs to see if there is anything you need to know about. Learning how to warm a bottle. The difference between formula and breast milk when you warm it,” said Christy Cameron, the Senior Program Director of Bismarck’s YMCA.
We spoke to one parent whose daughter recently took the class.
“She’s the oldest of like 15 younger cousins. So, yeah. She’s just always wanted to do that kind of stuff. So, just wanted to make sure she’s doing it responsibly. Actually, Olivia really wanted to take the training. So, she was the one that kind of initiated it. And we just really wanted to support her,” said Beth Heyne.
The class teaches kids everything from changing diapers, to how to entertain younger children, and even gets them CPR certified.
The department of Human services says parents should consider their kids’ emotional maturity, physical capabilities, and even potential dangers near their homes, before leaving them unsupervised.
Human Services tells us it’s important to start small and suggests giving your kids a small task to accomplish while you’re gone.
They also say, talking to your children about their concerns is key.