RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While some states may have a specific age set in law as to when is deemed appropriate to leave children home alone, Virginia is not one of them.
In the commonwealth, there is no legally set age at which point children are allowed to be home alone. So, how do you know when your child is ready?
The Child Welfare Information Gateway division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has several suggested guidelines for parents thinking about when the time is right to leave their children at home unsupervised.
What to consider before leaving your child home alone
Age and maturity
Because children mature at different rates, the decision to leave your child home alone shouldn’t be based on age alone. Traits such as being physically and mentally able to care for themselves, obeying rules and making good decisions, how they respond to unfamiliar and stressful situations, and if they are comfortable being home alone can assist with deciding whether your child is ready to be home alone.
Parents may want to consider circumstantial factors when weighing the idea of leaving their child home alone. The length of time the child will spend alone, how many children will be left alone, whether it will be day or night and the safety of your neighborhood are all factors to be taken into consideration.
Making sure your child knows what to do and who to contact in an emergency is a key proponent of being home unsupervised. Make sure emergency contacts are easily accessible and understandable for your child when left alone. Being knowledgeable of basic first aid and able to access first aid supplies is also advised.
Additional suggested guidelines on leaving your child at home alone from Stop Child Abuse Now of Northern Virginia can be found online and organized by age here.