Sometimes the hassle of lugging your child with you can leave you wondering if it would be okay to leave them alone, just for a few minutes. Even though a few minutes can seem like a very short time to an adult, it is plenty of time for a child to get into life threatening situations, even if the child can’t walk or crawl yet.
Unbuckling seat belts or car seats just so you can pop into the store right quick or pay for gas seems like an incredible hassle, but the hassle is worth it. Besides the dangers of your child inadvertently putting the car in drive while you are gone, heat or cold can put even the best behaved child in danger. A child’s body heats up five times faster than adults and they can overheat in a car on a day that is just 72 degrees, according to the Kids Safe Worldwide organization. According to the organization, more than 550 children in the United States have died from overheating in a car. So, leaving a child in a car isn’t a good idea, not even for a few minutes.
Only Illinois and Maryland have laws about what age a child can be legally left alone. So, for most parents, the right age to leave your child alone is solely up to you. For the most part, before a child should be left alone, he should be able to deal with dangers that are found around the home. For example, your child should know what items could lead to accidental poisoning, how to deal with strangers that come to the door and how to safely operate home appliances. Even so, accidents still can happen. For example, your child may set a dish towel on fire while making mac-and-cheese or fall as she’s walking down the stairs. While there’s no way to prevent every accident, make sure that your child knows what to do in case of an emergency.
A trip to the pool or the lake is a fun way to cool off during a hot day, but without proper supervision, it can be one mistake away from tragedy. Every day, two children 14-years-old or younger die from unintentional drowning, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Even bathtubs and buckets of water can pose a drowning risk for younger children. The best prevention is to not let your child out of your sight when they are around water and to put a fence around your pool at home.
This is an example of why leaving your kids alone in a hotel room may not be the best idea. Four-year-old Madeleine McCann made headlines in 2007 after her parents left her sleeping in their hotel room while they went to get a bite to eat. While her parents were only 50 yards away, Madeleine was snatched from her hotel room and never found. Another example that made headlines is the story of Dusty Krogman. Krogman left his child in a hotel room and was later arrested for child endangerment. His child had been found wandering around the hotel grounds. No matter how close you are or for how short of a time you leave your child, bad things can happen, even when you are on vacation.
When is it okay to leave a child alone? When they are old enough, and responsible enough to handle situations that may arise. That doesn’t mean that you need to hover over your child, simply make sure that he has the supervision that he needs for his age. If you need help deciding what age is best to leave your child at home, try using this NNCC Home Alone Readiness Checklist.