Last week, my husband was on a business trip. This was the type of trip that invoked jealousy from me. He had a fancy room in Las Vegas and nice dinners out.
It was the type of conference that many spouses tag along to. I would have no problem lounging at the pool or taking in the spa for a few days on my own in Las Vegas. It sounds like heaven.
As my husband described his week and I lamented my same week at home, I said out loud, “I’m looking forward to the time when our kids are old enough to leave at home so I can join you on a trip like this.” And then I also wondered out loud, “When is that? What is the right age to begin to leave kids home alone overnight?”
What the Law Says About Leaving Kids Home Alone Overnight
Believe it or not, most states don’t have a law that specifies the age when you can leave children home alone during the day or at night. Aside from Maryland (age 8) and Illinois (age 14), states only have guidelines based on maturity.
The general legal consensus on the link above and on blogs about this subject is that kids can be left alone for 1-2 nights beginning at age 16. That makes sense, considering many 16-year-olds have a driver’s license and could get to the store or doctor by themselves as needed. Some would also be living on their own in two years at age 18, so giving shorter bursts of freedom at 16 is a steppingstone to that.
Other Factors to Consider
I saw this same question recently in a mom’s group on social media. Moms were very divisive on this topic. Some were ok with their 16-year-olds staying at home alone overnight, while others were adamant it would never happen.
Besides age, there are other factors to consider. Is the 16-year-old responsible for babysitting younger siblings overnight? What are their ages?
Maturity also plays a big role. Maturity levels among kids of the same age can be drastically different.
Also, your kids’ friends matter. Do you trust their friends? Or, do you know they will have a wild friend some over and wreak havoc?
And finally, do you have neighbors who can keep.an eye on things? Will they notice if there are 10 cars parked in front of your house? Do you know your neighbors well enough so that your kids can come to them if they need help?
My son will be 16 next year. I would be comfortable letting him stay by himself alone overnight for a few days. He’s is reasonably mature and responsible, and we have a neighbor across the street we could ask to keep an eye on things.
However, I’m less comfortable having him alone with his two younger siblings. They tend to argue and create high drama, and my oldest isn’t the best at diffusing. He sometimes makes things worse.
My oldest babysits the younger two every now and then, but usually for just a few hours. We’ve never left our kids alone for a longer period of time.
Most families have grandparents who will come stay with the kids. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t have that option.
But the bottom line is that if we’re not comfortable with our kids home alone overnight, we won’t enjoy our getaway. We’d never be able to fully relax and enjoy ourselves, so what’s the point?
I don’t know when my kids will be old enough and mature enough to handling staying home overnight without us. Next year? Probably not. In a few years? Maybe.
At what age do you think your kids will be ok staying home alone overnight?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.