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Publication #FAR0005

Assessing Your Child's Readiness for Self-Care1

Diana Converse2

I remember the moment I had to leave each of my children on their own for the first time like it was yesterday. I also remember struggling with whether they were too young, while it seemed many of their peers' parents had made that decision long before. Who was right?

As it turns out, perhaps we all were. Just like potty-training, some children can be ready at an earlier age, some take a little longer… but, eventually, they are all potty-trained, and they will have to take care of themselves as part of their maturing process.

Self-care can be a positive and rewarding experience for children who are ready for it and are properly prepared. It can help them develop independence and learn responsibility. It can give them confidence in their own abilities. However, if a child is not mature enough, self-care can create anxiety and can be potentially dangerous.

While there is no magic age when children develop the maturity needed to stay alone, the general guideline experts recommend is that children lack the decision-making skills needed for self-care before age 11.

There are a number of signs parents can use to evaluate their child's readiness, including physical, mental, social, and emotional skills their children should have. For example, can they solve conflicts with siblings? Do they recognize danger and know how to stay safe? And do they seem willing to stay alone? Likewise, parents must consider the safety of their home and neighborhood before making the decision to leave their child on their own.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more about if your child is ready for self-care, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:



This document is FAR0005, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 57 and December 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Diana Converse, Extension agent III, Hillsborough County, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.