Summer vacation is upon us, and parents all over the country are seeing their daily routines thrown into disarray. After a divorce, it may be even harder to manage summer schedules if you were used to sharing the daily duties of covering childcare. Divorced parents have work, appointments, and a laundry list of other things that still need to be taken care of. Often, this can lead to situations where single parents are tempted to leave the kids at home while they run a few quick errands. If they’re just going to be in and out, there’s no harm in it, right? Well, that’s not always the case.
In most states, you won’t find a minimum age requirement to leave a child home alone. Only a few have laws specifying when this is allowed. These include Oregon (age 10), Illinois (age 14), and Maryland (age 8). In Texas, the law doesn’t specify what age is old enough for a child to stay at home alone. As a parent, however, you’re accountable for the safety of your child, and failure to properly supervise them could be considered a type of neglect (“neglectful supervision”).
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has laid out a few things for parents to consider when deciding how closely to supervise a child:
- How old, emotionally mature, and capable is your child?
- What is the layout and how safe is the home, play area, or other setting?
- Are there any hazards or risks in your neighborhood?
- Is your child able to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies?
- Does your child have a mental, physical, or medical disabilities?
- How many children are being left supervised?
- Do your children know where you are? Do they have a way to contact you or other adults?
- How long is the child (or children) being left alone? How often does this happen?
Bottom line: use common sense. Leaving your child at home alone puts a lot of responsibility on them that they may not be ready for. If there’s a chance any of your children are being put in a potentially dangerous situation, don’t do it. Summer vacation is supposed to be fun, so let’s all do our part to keep it that way.