Last week's entry about leaving children home alone prompted a bunch of of similar questions. Here are some answers.
Question: Is it legal for me to leave my child home alone? He is 10. I don't want DSS coming after us!
From: Laura, Boston
Question: Can my daughter who is 11 years old, stay home alone for about 2 hours with my 2 year old daughter? And is it legal issue?
From: Angie, Los Angeles
Dear Laura & Angie,
Most states, including Mass & Ca., do not have laws about the age at which a child can be left at home. Here's the most up-to-date listing I could find, state-by-state.
As far as sibs caring for sibs, I would not leave an 11-year-old in charge of a 2-year-old, not even a very mature 11. Too many things that can go wrong, too many reasons for regret. I'm quoting from my own book to answer this:
"In studies where latchkey children have been asked about problems they have, the most frequently reported difficulties revolve around siblings. Siblings who get along well and are respectful of each other probably will do fine alone together, but this is a slippery slope that needs careful examination and constant monitoring. Just because a 12-year-old is ready to be home alone doesn't mean he's ready to be home alone and responsible for one or two younger siblings. When siblings are close in age, leaving one in charge of the other often backfires. Jealousies flare, fights erupt. Better to put each child in charge of him- or herself but working as a team, so that each has an individual schedule to follow on his own. One child might be in charge of snacks, the other, in charge of walking the dog. Success often depends on how well you are able to anticipate and talk in advance about areas that will get them into friction...."
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