How To Know When It's Appropriate to Leave Your Teen Home Alone

Deciding when to leave your teen home alone is a big decision. You want to begin this era of independence and learned responsibility to happen when everyone in the family is ready, especially the child. There are a number of benefits to leaving a teen home alone for a few hours or overnight, while there are many concerns and risks. If you think through your decision and plan with your teen, you should be able to make this transition successfully and feel assured that they’re safe on their own. Here are some factors to take into account when deciding when it is acceptable to leave your teen home alone.




Age

Oftentimes, the age of your teen isn’t necessarily a strong indicator of their maturity or readiness for independence. However, there are state mandated laws that influence at what age you’re able to leave your teen alone and how long. In Illinois, for example, the child must be 14 years old in order to be left alone. Check out your state’s Department of Health and Human Services agency website to see the legal stipulations for leaving your teen or other children at home.

Maturity

Your teen’s maturity level is a strong indicator of whether or not they’re ready to be home alone. Your teen should have a natural tendency to do what’s right and show signs of responsibility when it comes to household chores, school, interacting with their siblings and navigating complex situations. When you can see their ability to make logical, in-the-moment decisions, that’s a sign that they’re ready for more responsibility and independence. If you’re on the edge about letting your teen be home alone based on their decision making, sit down with them and have a conversation about how they’d react to potential scenarios. Ask them how they’d respond to home maintenance issues, emergency situations, peer pressure, tending to pets or watching their younger siblings.

Safety Plan

Create a safety plan with your teen while you’re making the transition to leave them home alone. Have your teen learn how to lock the doors and windows, create a list of emergency numbers, designate which cooking appliances they can use and how to operate them, and write down a list of procedures that address emergency situations. Have your child look over the safety steps that are listed on the Red Cross website to help guide them. Upgrade the home security system at home to help both you and your teen feel a bit safer. Lorex offers home security camera systems that your teen can learn to utilize while they’re on their own at home, which will make them feel safe and in charge.

Systems for Check-Ins

Develop systems for check-ins that your teen should initiate as a way to show you their maturity and aptitude for responsibility. Allow your teen some decision-making space to identify how they would want to check-in with you. Perhaps, they could send you a text to let you know that all is well, or video chat or let you follow their location through their phone. If you’re wanting your teen to check in multiple times a day, like when they get home from school and after dinner, make sure the two of you figure out a specific time when those check-ins would happen. By sticking to a check-in schedule, your anxiety will be lessened and your teen will learn how to be on top of their responsibilities.

You know your child best and know when it’s time for them to be left home alone. Whatever you do, closely collaborate with your teen as you transition into this new realm of responsibility and independence. When they feel involved in the process, they’ll have more buy-in and desire to meet your expectations.


2 comments

  1. This article was definitely pin worthy!! This conversation has come up a couple of times in our family!! A lot of families can’t afford babysitters! Plus like one of the points that came up in our discussion was the kids saying that they feel that they are old enough to take care of themselves. Another point they made was the trust issue. My grandson said that he can be trusted. This is a very hard decision!! We want the kids to feel trusted and to stand on their own two feet, but we don’t want this decision to cause anybody any harm!! They already know emergency procedures. The home has a smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide detector, a fire extinguisher ��, flashlight ��, cell phones, candles, blankets, and they just installed one of those video doorbells. I think Illinois 14 year old age law is a fair age one. Thank you for sharing this very important subject that many families will have to make!

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  2. No kids here but these are great tips. Lot's of things you should consider!

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