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Siblings as babysitters

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peacelovetea posted 4/24/2013 10:19 AM

My oldest is 12 (and a half -- very important ) and my youngest is 6, with a nearly 10 in the middle. So far I will let the older two stay home alone for short periods, if I run to the grocery store, or drop off another child somewhere, something like that. I have not, however, left the oldest in charge of the youngest yet, except once or twice early in the morning when I have left for 15 minutes to drop the middle at orchestra practice and the little was still asleep.

But I am pondering -- at what age will oldest be old enough? I was babysitting toddlers at 12, but somehow that seems crazy to me now. He's a responsible kid, though he has had significant mood and behavioral problems in the past he's been stable now for a number of years. I am definitely fine with him being home alone for a few hours -- but the six year old is... feisty ... and I can see him being drunk on the power of being charge. There are reliable neighbors nearby if that makes a difference.

How old were your kids when you let them sit for their sibs? How did you know they were ready?

sunandmoon posted 4/24/2013 10:37 AM

I have a nearly thirteen year old boy and a nearly 9 year old. This year is the first I have let the almost 13 year old go home and stay home on his own after school-he is on his own for 2-3 hours. He also stays on his own here and there when I have errands and he does not want to go along.

He has stayed with his sib for a few minutes when I needed to run to get milk. Other than that he just has a hard enough time taking care of himself and is not ready for the responsibility. My 9 year old would also not be comfortable being left in his brother's care for an extended period.

I completely know what you are saying. I was home alone or with limited supervision by my older brother by 8. And I babysat for infants by 11 or 12.....cannot explain what the difference it but its there....


Undefinabl3 posted 4/24/2013 10:40 AM

When I was 6 and 7, I would have to walk myself to the bus, then after school, walk from the bus to the babysitters.

My mom would leave me alone that young sometimes. I never had an issue with it at all, I would stay in my room, or in the living room and watch TV. I never answered the door or the phone, and I knew if I needed help to dial the police.

My brother is almost 5 years older then me, and my mom rarely left him alone in the house by himself. He would never stay in the house, he would have been down at his friends or whatever. She couldnt trust him very much to do as he was asked.

Honestly, I think it has a lot to do with the kid and how mature/responsible they are.

If a 12 year old has younger siblings, then I would think they could handle it if they wanted too, if not, then they may need to be a little holder.

Mama_of_3_Kids posted 4/24/2013 12:52 PM

My kids are very responsible and don't open the door for anyone, unless it's me or Do3K (or family); we started leaving the DS's home when they were 10 and 7, for about 5-10 min at a time. We didn't start leaving DD home with them until last spring. Now we will leave them all home alone together when we need to (usually when we're staying in town/going to be gone for a short amount of time). HOWEVER, my mom is less than a block away and we live in a small town. Indiana state law says that it is up to the parents discretion...some kids may be ready at 9 or 10, while others may never be ready to be left home alone. Make sure you check your state laws first though

Runningaway posted 4/25/2013 01:15 AM

When I commenced operation "get my ducks in a row" four years ago and went back to work full time my kids were 12, 10 and 8. I had no other options but to let the oldest watch the youngest. They had to walk home from school together and stay out of trouble until I got home from work. So about 2 hours a day. I think over all no permanent damage was done. They were very close before and are still close now, but the dynamic definitely changed. It's hard when you make one of them "the boss".

Amazonia posted 4/25/2013 05:44 AM

If you want to get to this point, maybe you could ease into it? Start asking him to watch his younger sibling for a few hours while you are outside working on the garden, inside doing the taxes, etc similarly distracted but still present. Ad then ease into 15 minutes at the neighbor's house, 20 minutes to grab more milk from the store, etc. and build from there.

million pieces posted 4/25/2013 06:23 AM

You may also want to check into the laws in your state. My state says that any child under the age of 8 needs to be in the supervision of someone over the age of 12. I'm in MD.

circe posted 4/25/2013 09:52 AM

My children are nearly 11 years apart, and when my DS was about 14 and DD was 3.5 he was perfectly able to take care of her basic needs for a few hours at a time. Technically he probably could have earlier, but DD was a pain in the neck in her late 2's and early 3's and I wouldn't have put DS through that for more than 30 minutes or so out of necessity.

I agree though that it depends on the child. My DS has always been laid back and could absorb a lot of annoyance and provocation without getting his feathers ruffled. My DSD12 wouldn't be capable of caring for anyone younger than her, and still has some issues muddling through being on her own after school and getting snacks and settling in with homework without a lot of phone calls.

I'm not as strict about some parents about the age of children being able to do certain things, because our kids are just so different that age isn't the deciding factor. I also usually ask myself "what am I afraid will go wrong?" In your case, if you 12 year old would be excessively happy to boss the 6 year old if left alone, would that be really awful or just something that you would redirect and correct and work through? Would the 6 year old be scarred or hurt or damaged if the 12 year old bossed him around at first? Could you do it in increments and sort of oversee the developing relationship between them as boss and not-boss?

betrayedfriend posted 4/25/2013 10:05 AM

In Illinois it's 14. My oldest is 8, middle is 7 and youngest is 17 months... Because of my disability, there's a lot of things my older two do now to help with the baby, they change her diapers (and get paid a quarter a diaper) they refill her sippy, and get her (prepackaged) meal and give it to her. I am always in the house or in the yard, and they know they have to keep her safe. There are things that are parent only chores, like giving her a bath, or feeding her a new food (we have food allergies in the family) But for the day to day, get her dressed, change her diaper, keep her occupied kind of thing they are great. My 8 yr old is wonderful, but has adhd and can be a serious space cadet at times, so I imagine when she's 14 and a little more mature, I will actually leave her and her (by then) 13 yr old sister jointly in charge of the baby (who will be 7 by then and able to handle a lot of her own things) I will not now or ever put dd8 in charge of dd7... they are only 16 months apart and super close in maturity levels, if dd8 doesn't need a sitter, neither does dd7.

Hearthache again posted 4/26/2013 00:57 AM

We leave all our children alone all the time. We have left them home all day or even an overnight when the youngest was in the hospital. They know what to do and we have neighbors that we trust right next door. We have left them home alone for about 4 years now. It started out small just for a half hour or so. We did not leave the baby home alone with them until he was over a year old and was walking well. The 15 year old has ADHD and is only in charge of herself. The 12 year old is in charge of her and the 2 year old and the 8 year old is the boss of himself.

You know your kids and the situation. I think another factor is neighbor hood. I would not of left our children home 4 years ago if we didn't live where we do.

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