Yes, over the holidays I spotted the last scene of the movie Home Alone while switching channels. Who didn’t? So, how old should a child be to be left home alone? One of the most common questions, especially when children are in the care of a single (and busy) parent.
A few years ago, I needed to address this question in an actual case when I was serving as parenting time expeditor for a divorced couple with one child. There is no law directly on point, so I contacted a child development professional. The answer was, as so often is the case: it depends. Different children have different maturity levels, and differing ability to handle the responsibility of being alone.
Five-year-olds are clearly too young. Most older teenagers are old enough be home alone. The issue arises most when there is a child involved between the ages of eight and eleven, which is the period of time during which most children grow old enough to be home alone. Also, when there are multiple children involved, parents may disagree on how old the older child(ren) need(s) to be to supervise the younger child(ren).
Ultimately, the resolution lies either in the parents’ agreement about what is reasonable or, in the absence of agreement, the recommendation of a neutral professional.