When I was a kid, I'm not sure if my parents even considered whether or not there was a law on the books about leaving kids home alone. I can only figure they used their judgment and decided that my sisters, cousins, and I would be fine on our own when the oldest of us was around 11 or 12 years old.

Things were a little different when I was a kid. Sometimes we stayed on my cousin's farm...then the rules really changed. Canva

That left my cousin Michelle and me in charge of the kid posse which ranged in age from about 2 years old, on up. With six or seven of us, I kind of scratched my head and wonder what they were thinking.

We were allowed to do a lot of things when I was a kid that we'd never let our children do now! Canva

I don't know if we were especially mature at that age, or if our parents just figured we had enough common sense to figure things out on our own. It's more likely they were going broke paying a babysitter for that many kids, and they just needed to get away from us for a while.

Considering this was the age before everyone carried a cell phone, they were taking a pretty big leap of faith.

Location Matters

This same question was hotly debated when my kids were young: what is the youngest a parent is allowed to live their child at home alone, without supervision?

There's always that parent who claims to know the rules. Checking for yourself is always a better plan. Canva

Naturally, there was always the parent or "professional" who knew the law, usually citing 12 as the magic number. As it turns out, they may have been a little off.

The correct answer depends on a few factors. For example, there are different rules between Sierra Vista, where the state of Arizona designates the rules, and Fort Huachuca, which is governed by federal law.

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The Rules in Arizona

According to the Arizona Department of Child Safety website:

  • There is no specific law in Arizona that states how old kids have to be left home alone
  • However, some factors to consider are the child's maturity, safety skills, and comfort level
  • Generally, experts recommend that kids should be at least 10 years old before they can stay home alone for a short period of time
  • For longer periods of time, such as overnight, kids should be at least 13 years old
  • Parents should also make sure that kids have access to emergency contacts, a first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher
Staying home alone might depend on the child's level of maturity and the parent's discretion. Canva

Although this might seem like a clear answer to this question, there's actually a little more to consider.

While Arizona's law doesn't designate an age when a child can be left alone, the parents are still responsible for the decisions they make about leaving their kids on their own, and it doesn't mean you can leave your kids alone whenever you want.

The Rules on Fort Huachuca

As you might expect, the rules on Fort Huachuca are very different and much more spelled out.

Federal laws dictate rules on Fort Huachuca, so leaving a child alone is more clearly spelled out and depends on the child's age. Canva

The Department of the Army's Policy 20-55, states: "Children age 9 and in the fourth grade and below require supervision at all times".

It goes on to say, "Children in the fifth grade and at least 10 years old are in a transitional year". There is an implication that parents can use some discretion on whether this is an age children can handle being left alone.

Older children are allowed to stay home alone longer, but checking the policy is important. Canva

"Children that are older, ages 11 to 13, can spend some time at home alone, but only up to 6 hours."

The policy continues, with some rules about 13-year-olds completing a babysitting course, and slightly longer periods of time allowed for older kids. See the complete policy here.

Children should be mature enough to care for themselves and other kids, if left alone. The rules on Fort Huachuca are different than the rest of Arizona. Canva

As you might expect, the Army has given this a lot of thought and as they tend to do, they've created very specific guidelines, so it's worth consulting their policy before making a decision.

Deciding to Leave Your Child Home Alone

So how do you decide if your child is ready to stay home alone? There are some factors that you should consider, such as:

  • The age and maturity of your child
  • The length and frequency of time your child will be alone
  • The safety and security of your home and surrounding neighborhood
  • The availability of emergency contacts and resources
  • The ability of your child to follow rules and handle situations

Talk to Your Kids

You both know what he or she is capable of better than any government guideline, so even if the Army thinks they're old enough if they're anxious and uncomfortable with the prospect of staying home without an adult, they may not be ready to take on the responsibility, especially if there are other siblings to consider.

No matter what, kids should know how to contact adults if they need help. Canva

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