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Babysitting a sibling...

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Trench Bunny Caretaker
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What is the youngest age that you would feel comfortable leaving an elder child at home to watch their younger sister (aged 7) every day after school?

Thanks!

Rue
#1 - March 31, 2012, 01:55 PM
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That depends on so many factors.  I'd leave my current 12 year old with a younger sibling, but I wouldn't have left a couple of my older ones at 12.  And is the 7 year old a basically good child or a handful?
#2 - March 31, 2012, 01:58 PM
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Trench Bunny Caretaker
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She's generally pretty good. She has a mind of her own, but she's not a trouble maker or anything.

I know around here, kids can take the Red Cross babysitting course at age 11, but I'm curious what people are comfortable with.

Thanks!

Rue
#3 - March 31, 2012, 02:01 PM
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For me, it would also depend on how close your neighbors are, how safe your neighborhood is, how far away you will be--stuff like that.
#4 - March 31, 2012, 02:03 PM
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BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

Trench Bunny Caretaker
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It's a suburban neighbourhood, but it's in a new development, so it's surrounded by a lot of rural/undeveloped land. I never considered whether the neighbours would be home or if they'd also be at work (like the kids' parents are). I'll think about that. The parents are less than 20 minutes away (by car) and are generally home by 4:30/5pm. The bus drops the kids off around 3pm about a block from their house and they walk from there.

Thanks!

Rue
#5 - March 31, 2012, 02:13 PM
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I was babysitting for multiple kids at once by the time I was 12. But there were not really teens in our neighborhood, I was the biggest kid available. :-)
#6 - March 31, 2012, 02:48 PM
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In our town (think middle class/upper middle class neighborhoods) charges were brought against a woman who left her 11 or 12 year old home alone with three younger siblings (youngest was 5, I think) just recently.

This is the thing I always thought about. If anything were to happen, I wouldn't want my oldest child to feel responsible for some accident that had unfortunate consequences. You never know how anyone, even an adult, will react in an emergency. Once our college-aged, very competent babysitter had to deal with an accident that involved blood. I think our third born (daughter who was probably 8 years old at the time) handled the situation more calmly than anyone.

It's a situation that will get you a lot of different answers, and people will naturally have a wide variety of comfort levels. And you will find that people will make very different decisions.
#7 - March 31, 2012, 02:53 PM
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I always thought 12 was the age where you could "legally" (legally in quotes because I'm not sure that there really is a legal age) leave kids home alone. So Mrs. Jones, that surprises me a lot to hear. I do know that in 7th grade here (so, 12 YOs) there is a babysitting/CPR course taught at school. My son, not wanting to do music, is going to end up in it. I assume that means the school thinks 12YOs can babysit?

When I started to let siblings babysit, it actually depended more on how civilized the youngest kid was. Like, how many hands/pairs of eyes does he need on him to keep him safe? That sort of thing. And also, the neighborhood, the availability of someone you actually know in the area in case there is an extreme emergency, and how long you're going to be gone/where you are during that time are also factors.
#8 - March 31, 2012, 03:07 PM

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I don't think there is much legal guidance. It really has to be about the maturity and behavior of the children and the specific situation, including their relationship. If the younger child won't listen to the older one or the older one bullies the younger one, then the ages don't matter much. A 12-year-old who does well babysitting a neighbor's 5-year-old might have a lot of trouble with her own 9-year-old brother.

I babysat young children at 12. My sisters and I stayed home alone after school with the oldest 11 or 12. My niece babysat for my children at 13.
#9 - March 31, 2012, 03:18 PM
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Trench Bunny Caretaker
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Thanks for the comments guys. 12 seems to be the magic number so far.

I let my eldest start "babysitting" his younger brother (they're only 2 1/2 years apart) when he was 11 (this was for trips to the grocery store, etc.). But I remember my mom leaving me (and sometimes my younger sister) home after school with my older brother when he was probably only 10 (I was 6 and my sister was 4). Times have definitely changed!

Thanks!

Rue
#10 - March 31, 2012, 03:23 PM
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In ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK, Ma and Pa left Laura and Mary alone very young. 
#11 - March 31, 2012, 03:26 PM
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

When I was in 6th grade (so 11 and then 12) I walked home from school (.3 miles) with my sister every day. She was 10. And we waited for my mom to get home and do chores. We watched tv and did chores for a couple of hours and it seemed fine. I have a 5th grader now and I would not leave her home with her 6 year old sibling - mostly because the 5th grader is highly distractable and lots of things occur to the 6 year old. ;) And, I admit to hovering behavior...

I think a lot depends on the kids in question and how close the parents are and time of day and all that. Like, I have a friend who leaves all 5 kids at home (11 - 2) but she has family in the basement and next door and the kids can get help.

Do you have a neighbor leaving kids that you're concerned about?
#12 - March 31, 2012, 05:17 PM
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I think, as others have said, that it depends on the personalities of the two children, and the age of the younger child. I also think there's a difference between leaving them occasionally, and leaving them every day. That's a big responsibility and I would not want to saddle my 12 year old with it every day. After all he/she is still a child, too. I would look hard for another option as a regular thing.
#13 - March 31, 2012, 05:22 PM
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My 12-year old took the Red Cross babysitting course last summer, and I feel very comfortable leaving her with her 6-year old sister for short periods of time. One time, I had to leave them for about 90 minutes, and I hated it, but I was close by if they needed me.

However, I wouldn't leave her with her 9-year old sister for 5 minutes. Those two are like oil and water!
#14 - March 31, 2012, 05:40 PM

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Hmmm. I think I was probably 12 when my mom started running quick errands and leaving me in charge of my brothers who would have been 8 and 3 at the time. I definitely began babysitting by 15, if that helps. I think I was 19 when my parents went on a 20th anniversary trip and left me in charge of my 16 and 12 year-old brothers for a long weekend.

It surprises me to hear charges were placed against a mother who left her 11/12 year old in charge. I guess times have changed.
#15 - March 31, 2012, 06:44 PM
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Thanks for the feedback guys. I was kinda hoping I could dial back my MC's age to 10, but obviously not. I might get away with 11, but I think he's gonna have to stay 12.

No, no, Robin. This is book research. ;)

Thanks!

Rue
#16 - March 31, 2012, 07:01 PM
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