At some point, your child will need to be able to stay home alone. But how do you know if your child is ready as there is no magical age that determines when a child is ready and North Dakota does not have a law which provides a specific age when children can be left alone.
According to the North Dakota Department of Human Services, children who are 9 years old should not be left alone unsupervised for periods greater than 2 hours during the daytime. A child of this age should not be unsupervised at night and should not supervise other children.
Children who are 10 and 11 years old may be left alone for longer periods of time. However, caution is advised in leaving a child unsupervised during sleeping hours. Children this age should not be responsible for younger children.
Children who are 12 years and older may be permitted to act as babysitters. It is recommended that they complete a Babysitting Class prior to starting to babysit.
The age of the child is not the only factor that should be considered when children are left alone. Other factors include: the maturity of the child; emotional health factors; the child’s physical or mental limitations; length of time alone; time of day or night; other children present to be supervised; frequency of being left alone; accessibility of a parent or other adult.
Leaving children home alone for the first time is a big step-for them and you! Richland County Health Department offers Home Alone Classes and Babysitting Classes to assist in preparing children for this.
Other ways you can help prepare your child for success:
1. Go over the rules. Are friends allowed to come over? Is your child allowed to leave the house? Can they watch TV? Go over these and any other family rules; make it clear that your child understands.
2. Discuss possible situations. If someone comes to the door what is the child to do? If the phone rings is your child allowed to answer? How will they respond if someone asks to speak to the parent?
3. Review basic kitchen safety. Make sure your child knows how to use kitchen appliances and tools. Discuss what they are allowed to make in the kitchen. Only cold snacks? Can they use the microwave?
4. Establish emergency preparedness. Does your child know what to do in case of smoke or fire? What should they do in case of a severe storm? Do they know basic first aid? Post emergency numbers and contact information so your child has it handy just in case. Discuss whom to contact if parents are unreachable.
5. Try role playing. Act out different scenarios that may arise. Pretend that your child needs to reach you-what will they do? How would they call 911? What would they do in case of a fire? By walking through different situations, children will be better prepared if the unexpected happens.
6. Start slow. Begin by leaving your child for 15-30 minutes at a time. Then, slowly increase the time you are away. Talk about any questions or problems that came up in your absence. Ask your child how they felt when you weren’t at home.
If you have questions or are interested in your child attending a Home Alone or Babysitting class you can call Richland County Health Department at 701-642-7735.