The age at which a child can legally be left alone in the house varies from province to province. Some specify a minimum age (ranging from 10 to 16), while others leave it up to the discretion of parents.
The right age really depends on your kid. One child might be mature enough at 10 to stay behind for an hour while you grocery shop, but another may need supervision for a few more years.
If you’re thinking about loosening the reins (especially with the new school year approaching) ask yourself these three questions:
- Does my child feel comfortable with the idea of being home alone?
- Does he remember and take directions well?
- Can she keep her cool when she finds herself in an unexpected situation?
If the answer to these is “yes,” here’s how to get started:
- Look into home-alone courses, either online or in your area
- Make sure you agree on how to handle situations like opening the door to a delivery person or friends coming over
- Have an action plan for an emergency, like which neighbour to ask for help and when to call 911
- Set clear limits on screen time and using the stove/oven
- Start with short periods of time away—two hours or less
- Don’t leave your child in charge of younger siblings to start
- Make sure you’re reachable by phone and check in often
This article was originally published in August 2015.