There is an interesting time in a child’s life where you can, and probably should, leave them on their own in certain places. However, just when that age is, and just how alone you plan to leave them makes all the difference. A 10 year old can be alone places where a 5 year old cannot be alone.
For example, we are at a public library in a nice neighborhood in the Denver area. This is a safe, nice, new library. The people inside all look like good upstanding folks, and the children’s area is nicely separated from the other library sections. I have no intention of leaving my kids alone in the building, but I could go over to the adult section and look for my books.
Here is the catch. My kids are in that 5 to 8 years old range where independence is necessary and desired. On the one hand, it is perfectly reasonable, and empowering, for my kids to know that they can look for books, play with toys, and use the computers without dad hovering over them. If someone saw my kids on their own in this area, they would not wonder where I was or be overly concerned. Certainly, no one would call the authorities. On the other hand, if something were to actually happen to my kids, everyone, including me, would be quick to judge harshly that they shouldn’t have been left on their own.
The truth is that the level of the child’s maturity and the location makes a lot of difference, but in the end, all you can do is make you own judgements based upon the information you have available. In this case, my kids are in the children’s section for short periods of time while I frequently check in. So far, they are happy with their freedom.
I’m still nervous 🙂