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Aethelwine's avatar

Would you leave your teenagers home alone for 5 days?

Asked by Aethelwine (42465points) June 17th, 2009

I don’t think I can do it. My husband and I were just invited to go whitewater rafting in Colorado with the boss and other co-workers for five days. We would need to leave our sons home alone while we are gone. They are 15 (just turned) and 16 (will be 17 in August).

Last summer we left them home for most of the night one evening and when I made of surprise visit to check on them, they had 3 friends in the front yard. They were told that no one was allowed over when we were gone. I can only imagine what might happen if we were gone for 5 days. Not to mention I would be worried the entire time that we were gone and would not enjoy the trip.

I know what my decision is but I was curious what other parents might do in this situation.

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57 Answers

Darwin's avatar

I wouldn’t, unless they could stay with someone or an adult relative can come visit. If I had to do something like that I would ship the kids off to my brother’s house. My daughter is 16 and fairly mature, but her logic is sometimes very faulty. My son, at almost 15, is a disaster waiting to happen.

gailcalled's avatar

Never, NEVER, NEVER.

Darwin's avatar

We left my step-son (age 22) in our house for a week while we were gone. He used our truck without permission (he had his own to use), partied, and never noticed that the freezer in the garage that was full of fish had stopped freezing.

Don’t do it.

xTheDreamer's avatar

If you hired a babysitter, relative to stay over, a neighbor that you have a great connection with to check on them etc, or something. At that age you can’t trust your kids but if they were a tad older I think things would go smoother. I’m 18 and I know that when my parents leave me home alone for so many days I wouldn’t invite anyone over if they have told me not to invite anyone but then again it depends on how they were raised. My parents raised me very strict so like I’m hardly allowed to go out at all, say for instance in a year I’ve been out about 5 times or so and that’s not including school activities.
But yeah, just don’t leave them home alone at those age, anything can happen.

skfinkel's avatar

Have you seen “Risky Business”? Check it out!

cookieman's avatar

No, afraid not.

Too many variables with that many teens over that many days.

I too would not be able to relax and enjoy myself – which kinda defeats the purpose of going away.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

If you don’t trust your kids to look out for each other and feel they’ll run into harm rather than simple mischief then, no. Some kids are babysitting others long before this age or are about to graduate high school and go out on their own by this age but you have your gut to tell you where your kids stand.

casheroo's avatar

Not for that many days, no.

When I was 14, my parents went away for their anniversary..just for like three days. I had my older brother, who was 17, mainly watch me. But, overnight I’d sleep at my boyfriends house. My parents had talked to his parents, I had my own room right next to his parents bedroom (so no funny business) and it was just overnight and I’d go back to my house during the day. Just so I’d have a dinner and place to be with an adult.
My parents trusted my brother and I a lot. We never threw any parties, never made messes, cleaned up after ourselves, didn’t skip out of school (well, not while my parents were away)
I think it entirely depends on the children, and if an adult can come by or if they can stay with friends.

tinyfaery's avatar

Do you trust them? Not necessarily trust them to follow all of your rules, but trust them not to do anything really stupid, or trust them to do the right thing when it counts?

My parents left my sister and I
alone when we were teens. Sure, we had boys over and drank some Boone’s Farm, but that was it. Your children are becoming their own persons, a little space and a chance to mess up and learn how to make more mature decisions might do them some good.

casheroo's avatar

Also, what about your youngest? She’s only 6, right? Who would watch her?

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

This is what happens to kids left home alone. Now imagine teenagers. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Aethelwine's avatar

@tinyfaery I trust them to do the right thing when it counts. My oldest son went camping with his friend a week ago and he called us at 11pm to come pick him up. The other boys were drinking and our son was not comfortable around that. I was very proud of him that evening.

My parents live about 10 minutes away, they would be able to check on the boys. Five days just seems so long to leave them alone, even if they had someone to check on them.

@casheroo She’d be staying with my parents for two nights, her aunt for two, then my parents again for two nights. She’s five and very much a momma’s girl. She’s only been away from us for 2 days at the longest and she was ready to come back home to mom. This is another worry that I have.

Darwin's avatar

A big worry is not necessarily the behavior of your teens. It is whether they have the maturity to deal with household emergencies, such as (in our case) the freezer dying and oozing rotted fish all over the floor of the garage.

ubersiren's avatar

Do it! But don’t make things so strict on them. Let them have a friend each over (of the same gender if you’re worried about “the sex having”) and give them pizza money, or whatever they like to eat. Restrict it to something like “We don’t mind if friend 1 and friend 2 come over if they want, as long as it’s ok with their parents that we’re not here, and we’d appreciate it if they didn’t stay overnight.” Let them have a little fun, too, and they’ll be more likely to obey your wishes. As long as they don’t destroy the house, or knock some girl up, they’ll be fine and so will you. If you’re still worried, have an adult or two over to check on them every day/evening.

Supacase's avatar

My parents left me at home alone for two weeks when I was 16 and for shorter periods frequently. Our area was very safe and I was a responsible teen. (Though I will admit I had a small party during that two week trip. Nothing broken or trashed, no drunk driving, and they never found out until I told them a few years ago.) It did kind of suck b/c my cat of 12 years got sick and had to be put down while they were gone. I would have appreciated not going through that experience alone. (God, it makes me want to cry now and that was 19 years ago!)

However, based on your initial test with your two, I’m not sure I would trust them quite yet. They didn’t even make it one night.

marinelife's avatar

So not. I know what my sisters used to do when my parents left them every weekend while working out of town.

wundayatta's avatar

Like others have said, this depends on your kids’ maturity. You found them with friends the last time, and that was against the rules, but what were they doing? Were they doing anything worrisome? Or were they just hanging out?

Your older son called you to get him when his friends were drinking. This suggests to me that he is not into alcohol or drugs, and these are the major things that warp teenagers’ judgment. This suggests to me that he is likely to make responsible decisions even if he doesn’t follow all your rules. He might just see some rules as unjustified. I.e., he thinks he is responsible enough to handle friends over without trashing the house.

Another concern is whether the children have the life skills necessary to handle problems that might arise. Like @Supacase and her cat. Or what if the electricity goes off? Can they cook? Or will they just eat cereal and order out for pizza the whole time? Will they take the money you leave them for supplies and emergencies and spend it responsibly, or will they blow it all on some Wii game?

My parents left me home for days starting when I was 17. We lived way the hell out in the country, so it was hard to get around without a car, and there was little trouble to get into. Even if we had access to trouble, we wouldn’t have indulged in it. We were too goody goody.

From the little information you’ve given us, I think the signs are positive about their being able to handle it. But you are their mother, and you know them much better, and if your instinct says they will get into trouble, I’d pay attention to that. However, what I think you should do is make an effort to separate your parental worrying from your objective assessment of your children’s capabilities. If, objectively, you think they can and will handle it just fine, then use logic to overcome your instinctive worrying.

loser's avatar

Not if they were even the slightest bit like me!!!

arnbev959's avatar

When my parents are away I tend to put aside one day to clean the garage or paint the fence, and the rest of time I’m not home at all. You know your kids. If they don’t realize that throwing a party is just about the stupidest thing they could do, then don’t leave them home alone. If they know how to keep themselves safe and out of trouble, even if they might do some minor things that they shouldn’t, like have a friend or two over, you could probably leave them, as long as there’s someone who can check up on them every now and then.
But don’t go if you’ll be so worried that you won’t be able to enjoy the trip.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I would think that 5 days is a bit much. Personally, 2 nights seems reasonable.

What I would keep in mind is that the last time you tried this they did not follow your rules. Until they can follow your rules for a single night I would not allow them to be alone for five nights. I think it is absolutely fantastic your son called you because he wasn’t comfortable with the drinking that night you discussed. This suggests that there is some responsibility and maturity but that doesn’t necessarily apply to all situations.

If I were in your shoes I would allow the kids to have two nights alone and then require they go to a friends or relatives house for the remaining three nights. I would explain that they are allowed the two nights to see if they can follow your rules and to reward your son for his responsible behavior the drinking night. I would also explain that you don’t feel comfortable leaving them for five nights because of their irresponsibility last time you tried this. That way they are very clear what is expected of them and are aware of the rewards and punishments associated with their behavior. I would not let them sway me into changing my mind either as teens are quite good at doing.

musicman997's avatar

Its one of those things where the collective can give you only so much advice, because ultimatly the decision is based on your trust and knowledge of your children. Do your kids hang out with kids who would throw crazy parties if their parents left? If the answer is yes then most likely it will be so with your kids as well. I am 18 and I can assure you, my answer is yes.

So to answer your question. No, arrange for them to stay at a friends/ relatives. It will make your trip much more enjoyable I imagine.

wundayatta's avatar

@musicman997 Wow! I find that so interesting that you admit that you are not trustworthy. Could you be trustworthy if you wanted to? If not, why is it out of your control? If so, why do you choose not to?

musicman997's avatar

@daloon The trust that I share with my parents is different from the trust I share with a neighbor or even a relative. The love between parent and child is unconditional, and knowing that, why not take advantage of it :P I enjoy having a good time, I appreciate the hospitatlity my friends show me, and Im sure they enjoy the reciprocity.

And yes if my parents looked me in the eyes, and told me specifically, no friends over, no drinking, i don’t want want you getting in trouble, or something like that, I would abide. I choose not to because you only have one life to live. Live it to the fullest.

wundayatta's avatar

@musicman997 You’re a lucky guy. I was never all that sure about my parents. I thought there was always a possibility, albeit faint, that they’d kick me out if I wasn’t good enough. Actually, they did kick me out, but I was old enough then that I was supposed to be on my own, anyway.

musicman997's avatar

@daloon You got kicked out of the house, that horrible. How old were you and what did you do to live?

wundayatta's avatar

21 or 22, I think. I went to stay with a friend, then got a job washing dishes, then my parents relented, and hired me to do some carpentry, and with that money ($400?), I moved to NYC four months later, and have been self-supporting ever since. That was in 1978.

musicman997's avatar

I couldnt go a month with $400, but thats quite a life my friend.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would not recommend it. Maybe you could hire a college student or a grandma to live in and monitor them for the week.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

They’re going to break at least some rules, any teens would. What matters is if you think they’ll break the rules that matter most to you. One or two friends over? No big deal, as long as you know what friends they are and are okay with them. Tell your kids someone will be coming over to check on them, but don’t tell them when. Have whatever adult (or even a couple) make some random surprise visits. I suggest leaving a spare key for the adult/s.

If you don’t think they can handle emergencies though, don’t leave them alone.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Darwin . . .The “household emergency” is my biggest hangup with the whole thing.

On one hand, I am not certain that my 17 year old could handle a house fire or blown fuse or any number of things that could go wrong.

On the other hand he is going to be on his own at college very soon and he needs to start learning how to deal with these things.

Ugh! Parenting.

casheroo's avatar

People keep mentioning emergencies, like a house fire…what do you want the kid to do, other than call 911 and save his sibling? I’m sure that a 17 year old can react properly in that situation. The only thing would be, as parents, you wouldn’t be there right away. But, keep a cell phone on you in case of emergencies. Call to check up on them. If something happens, it won’t be because you went away for a few days, things just happen sometimes. I think you should go. You two deserve it.

alive's avatar

like you said, if you leave kids (well teens) alone in a house, we all know what is going to happen. but you shouldn’t let that stop you from having a fun getaway, do you have any family or responsible friends that would come house/kid sit for a week? or maybe they each could go stay at their friend’s house with the friend’s parents (assuming you know and trust those parents)

tiffyandthewall's avatar

honestly, it depends on your kids. i know a lot of people are quick to be like ‘no, i remember what i was like when i was a teenager’, but i’m 17, and i know other teens on both ends of the spectrum. i know a few that would absolutely be up to ‘no good’ the entire time, but i also certainly know kids who have been in the same situation, and have done nothing whatsoever that their parents would disapprove of.

if you’re really looking forward to this trip but are not so crazy about leaving them at home by themselves – especially after last time – maybe they could sleep over at a friend’s house where they’ll be better supervised while you’re gone? they’ll be less bored if they’re with a friend, and if you’ve trusted them at the friend’s house before, it should be okay now too.

cak's avatar

I’ve been thinking about this one all evening. I immediately thought no, not a chance; however, there would be a few ways that I might consider it – but only if I could work out some of the “few” ways.

Because they are teens, they might test some boundaries if you leave them, but, if you arrange for some random visits by friends (or family), they won’t know when or if someone will be stopping by, that might help a bit. Have a friend or neighbor pop in and see how they are doing – both scheduled visits and unscheduled visits.

I still struggle with the length of time, though. A week is a long time and boredom might set in and that opens the door for trouble. That’s why I would still be very hesitant.

We were left alone for many long weekends, when we were teenagers. I generally followed the rules, my sister – the party girl – well, she invited all of her druggie friends over and the police wound up watching our house for the weekend. That was a fun weekend. major eye roll. If my sister didn’t hang around the house, I generally would have the two approved friends over and we’d have a great time. If my sister stayed home – like she was supposed to do…it was miserable. Her friends would start showing up…big mess. I wound up cleaning the entire house, trying to put it back together before the parents returned.

Darwin's avatar

@casheroo – I don’t think house fire when I think of household emergencies. I think more of things like the toilet backing up, the power going off to something essential like the refrigerator, the dishwasher suddenly deciding to pour water out on the kitchen floor, or the air conditioning going out.

Kids are trained from when they are little about house fires thanks to pro-active fire departments, but few teens know how to cope with plumbing or extreme heat.

casheroo's avatar

@Darwin I was commenting on the other comments regarding a house fire. I guess I just remember being a teen and having common sense. All of those things you mentioned require common sense, and the parents leaving the numbers for emergencies like that.

Darwin's avatar

@casheroo – But not all teens have common sense. My daughter is intelligent and quite mature for her age, but she freaks out during a household emergency. She is embarrassed by them and refuses to call the requisite repairman. Instead, she leaves the house and lets me come home to find the problem.

Then my son is a household emergency.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Darwin That is exactly how my oldest son is. He will just stand there and wait for someone to tell him what to do. We do have family that live about 10 minutes away, so they would have someone who could help if something happens.

@all Thank you all for some helpful ideas if we do decide to go. I would feel better if the trip was just a few days, Thursday- Sunday. Being gone from Thurs.- Tuesday evening just seems so long and @cak made a good point about boredom. I can see them getting tired of having to feed themselves, wash their clothes and take care of the dogs. They do need to learn how to take care of themselves but to start with a 6 day test? I’ll repeat what @Blondesjon said above, “Ugh! Parenting.”.

cookieman's avatar

@jonsblond: “Ugh! Parenting.”

True enough, but you guys seem like excellent parents regardless.

Y’all should write a book: jonsblondesjohn’s guide to parenting, partying and perseverance

Aethelwine's avatar

Update: My husband’s boss invited the kids to come along. We’re going to the Rockies this weekend! :)

casheroo's avatar

@jonsblond how exciting!!

cookieman's avatar

@jonsblond: Even better!

sounds like a great boss

Aethelwine's avatar

Thanks! Jon does have an awesome boss.

tinyfaery's avatar

Eh. You had a chance for 5 days alone with each other. But, way cool boss.

Blondesjon's avatar

No. I really do have the coolest boss ever. Her husband is @Sakata and he is a fellow jelly and a pretty darn, good friend.

i have never been whitewater rafting in my life

Darwin's avatar

Sounds like a blast! Terrific memories will be made by all (and you might get a touch more alone time than you expect).

justus2's avatar

If I trust my kids not to be stupid then yes, and as far as following my rules there is basicly one rule in this house, don’t hurt people!

tinyfaery's avatar

What if that’s their thing? You know their thing? spank spank

justus2's avatar

@tinyfaery who are you talking to?

tinyfaery's avatar

I thought this was another thread. Too late to change it. I’m loopy right now.

casheroo's avatar

lol lurve for the wrong thread. made me laugh.

Aethelwine's avatar

made me laugh… :) our trip was almost three months ago

Futomara's avatar

Just don’t tell them you are going on vacation. They probably won’t notice you are even gone. Understand the psychology behind this?

gailcalled's avatar

@Futomara: Too much egg nog? The @jonsblonds’ trip was now over six months ago. Welcome to Fluther; don’t forget to read what others’ say. Happy Winter Holidays.

Futomara's avatar

Jeesh! How could I forget that people only go on vacation once in their lives?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Futomara And of course no one will ever read this information in the future ” : – )

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