Home Alone: What age can kids handle the responsibility?

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU)- It’s a question every parent needs to answer at some point. At what age can kids handle being left home alone?

There's no law in Wisconsin setting a minimum age that a child may be left at home without an adult.

That means it’s up to parents to decide when the right time is.
“I would say between 11 and 12 they can stay home for longer periods of time,” Heather Matherne said.

“Maybe around 10 or 11 probably,” Casey Kressin said.

The question has a wide range of answers.

For six year old Paige Kressin, summertime is all about having fun. Her dad Casey says Paige and her 9-year old sister have constant supervision and leaving them home alone is something that will happen a few years down the road.

“I’m kind of protective so she has to be a little bit older at least,” Kressin said.

“My son is 10 and I would let him hang out for a while as long as there are neighbors around,” Heather Matherne said.

Matherne says she's slowly letting her 10-year old test the waters, staying home alone little by little.

So what's the magical age kids are ready to handle being home alone? Safe Kids Chippewa Valley coordinator Paula Pater says that's a question that needs to be answered on a child by child basis.

“You have to know your kid and their maturity level and some kids have differing abilities,” Pater said.

Pater recommends easing into leaving kids home by themselves.

“Start off with a quick trip to the grocery store and go from there,” she explained.

Pater also says setting up guidelines and expectations for kids is an important way to make sure they are ready to handle situations on their own. She also says parents should expect a few mistakes along the way and when they happen parents should use them as a learning tool for the future.

“That’s how they grow and learn to do it differently next time and they grow into responsible adults,” Pater said.

The U.S Department of Child Welfare does offer some tips for parents who are on the fence of whether or not they should allow kids to stay home alone. We have a link to those tips on the right-hand side of this screen.

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