For How Many Hours Can You Leave a 13-Year-Old Alone?

By Candace Webb
Children mature at different rates, meaning one child may be ready to self-supervise before another child of the same age.
Children mature at different rates, meaning one child may be ready to self-supervise before another child of the same age.

Only a couple states in America have an actual age limit for when you are allowed to leave a child home unattended. In Maryland, the child must be at least 8, and in Illinois, he most be at least 14. All other states defer to their Department of Health and Welfare or Child Social Services to determine when individual children are mature enough to supervise themselves. According to Find Law, your 13-year-old can be alone for several hours, as long as it is not overnight, but you must be sure he is ready and that you have prepared him.

Location Counts

In addition to your child being mature enough to supervise himself, according to Find Law, the area you live in also comes into play. For example, if you live in a quiet suburb, with nearby neighbors, your child may be able to be alone at a younger age than a child who lives in a high-crime or extremely remote area. Also, you should never leave him alone overnight, according to Find Law, no matter how safe the area is.

Provide Security Methods

Also, when leaving your 13-year-old alone, you must have taken steps to ensure his safety and well-being. For example, does he have access to a phone in case he needs to call for help or get in touch with you? If you do not have a land line, you can leave a cell phone with him, but be sure he knows how to use it. Put several friends and relatives into your contact list and show him how the numbers are accessed.

Gauge His Independence

Before leaving your 13-year-old home alone, make sure he is ready. Is he able to work independently on homework, household chores etc? He also needs to have demonstrated his willingness to follow rules you set down for him. In addition, if he will be supervising younger children, he needs to have demonstrated an ability to get along with them and make appropriate decisions when they ask to do something, such as go outside or get a snack.

No Pressure

While some children eagerly look forward to the first time the parents trust them to stay alone, others are not so ready. Ask your 13-year-old how he feels about it. Assure him that if he is not ready it is no problem, that you will make other arrangements.

About the Author

Candace Webb has been writing professionally since 1989. She has worked as a full-time journalist as well as contributed to metropolitan newspapers including the "Tennessean." She has also worked on staff as an associate editor at the "Nashville Parent" magazine. Webb holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in business from San Jose State University.