It is your responsibility to ensure that your children are as safe as possible. This often means taking your children with you wherever you go. However, once your children are old enough, the possibility of leaving them home alone after school while you run to the store provides you more freedom while giving your children more responsibility. Washington state does not have any laws that govern what age is allowed; it does have guidelines, however.
While Washington does not have a set age at which a child can be left home alone, it does have a guideline as a suggestion to parents. In Washington, the suggested age is 10. However, just because your child has turned 10 does not mean it is a good idea to leave him home alone. It is important as a parent to address other issues before making the decision to leave a child alone, especially for a longer period of time.
The maturity level of your child should be a consideration when deciding to leave your child alone in Washington. Some children are far more mature at 10 than others are at 16. You must decide if you child would be able to handle an emergency while you are gone, as well as if she would be able to take care of herself. You must also feel confident your child will be honest with you and follow any instructions you leave.
Some children are just not comfortable staying home alone despite their age. It is important to ask your child if he is OK with staying home by himself. Your child may be afraid of something bad happening while you are gone or feel nervous. He may prefer to go with you or stay with someone. Or your child may be excited about the idea and welcome the freedom. Speak with your child and find out how he feels about it and let him help you make the decision.
If you are considering leaving your child home alone in Washington, there are other factors to consider. For instance, do you have other children who will be staying with this child? Your 10-year-old may be capable of handling herself, but she may not be able or willing to care for her 6-year-old sibling. According to Latchkey-Kids.com, children under the age of 7 are incapable of handling being left alone. This may also apply to leaving a child under 7 with an older sibling. Also consider the length of time you will be gone, such as a few minutes at the store versus a couple hours after school, and the frequency with which you leave your child home alone.