Each week the Mentor Patch Moms Council answers a question on parenthood posed to them by readers or another member of council.
This week's question: How old do your kids need to be before they don't need a babysitter?
I think every child is different in when they feel comfortable being alone which then helps parents decide when that child should be, or is capable and mature enough, to be left alone.
Our oldest didn't like to be alone until she was 14 or so, while our middle and youngest were comfortable at 12. We started out leaving individual kids alone for a hour or so during the day, and gradually built up to longer periods and in the evening when it got dark.
We continued to hire babysitters until our kids were much older than that though because we didn't feel comfortable putting them in charge of their siblings for extended periods.
So much of this depends on the individual child, the situation he or she is being left in (daytime, nighttime, how long), and how easily the parents or other adults can be contacted.
In my own family, my girls were ready to stay home for short periods of time (half hour or so) starting around 4th grade. They are able to stay home for a few hours alone at 12, 13 or so.
My girls were never left alone for any length of time until they were 12, although they were very responsible.
Unlike today -- with cell phones and everyone keeping in touch -- I just felt that I couldn’t be unavailable (shopping or at a movie etc.) if something happened and they couldn’t contact me.
I still think 12 is a good age to start leaving kids on their own for short periods of time.
Mary Jo Stack:
I believe it all depends on the child. I left my kids alone for an hour here and there while I ran to the grocery store around age 12 or so.
I lengthened the time gradually. It is much easier with cell phones, being able to keep in contact with them.
I probably used a babysitter longer than really necessary, but it wasn't because my kids couldn't be trusted, it was because of what could have happened from outside the home. I wanted to make sure that my kids knew how to handle all sorts of circumstances.
Responsiblity needs to be taught to the child as the child is growing.
Therefore, if the parents feel that the child has developed a responsible attitude around the age of 12, that would be the time for the child to be alone for an hour or so during the day. Then, if this is a postive experience, the times can be increased.
As to the time of not using babysitters in the evening, it depends on how many children are involved. Does the oldest child have to take care of a number of siblings?
It is often difficult for a child to babysit siblings. To make the transition easier, you might hire a babysitter for the siblings but let the oldest child know that the babysitter is not for him/her.
Usually around the age of 15, a child becomes a babysitter for other children. To become a qualified babysitter, it is advisable to take a babysitting course which is often offered by various organizations such as the Girl Scouts or the City of Mentor.