Raising children and parenting laws in the United States

Learn about parenting laws in the United States. Learn about how Americans raise their children. Read about where to find help with daycare. Find out what to do if you are worried that your children are changing or at risk.

father and daughter with computer

There are many parenting laws in the United States of America. They are rules to protect children and give them rights.

Can I leave my children at my house or apartment without me?

  • In the USA, parenting laws say that young children and babies cannot be left at the house without an adult. In most states, kids over 12 years old can take care of their younger brothers or sisters.
  • If you leave your child at your house or apartment alone, you can get into trouble with the government.
  • If you work and have young children, you will need to pay for your children to go to daycare or have a babysitter. The government checks daycares to make sure they are taking good care of your kids.
  • If you do not have enough money to pay for a babysitter or daycare, you might be able to “trade” with another family. You could watch their children on some days and the other family can watch your children another day. You might be able to find a mother or father in your community to watch your children.
  • The national program HeadStart offers childcare and pre-school education to low-income families.

Can I hit my kids when they behave badly?

In the United States, you cannot hit children. If you hit your children, the government can take your children away from you. If your children are not following rules, you need to learn other ways to teach them to behave.

When parents or others hit or harm a child, it is called child abuse. In the USA there are child protection laws to stop people hurting children. Learn about child abuse, child protection, and the parenting laws you must follow.

What can I do if my kids are acting very American?

  • You might feel sad because your children are becoming very American. It is often easier for kids to adjust to American culture because it is easy for them to learn English. But remember that you want your children to succeed in America and even if you feel sad, it is good for them to adjust to life in America.
  • In the United States, many parents and teachers tell children when they do a good job. If you can tell your kids you are pleased with them, this will help you have a good relationship with your kids. Many refugee and immigrant kids say they wish their parents would praise them if they do something good.
  • Talk to your kids about your home country. Share pictures and tell them about your favorite things from your country.
  • Find one thing you and your kids both really like about America. Do that activity together. For example, you might all like baseball. Go to baseball games together with your children.

How can I teach my children our language?

  • You can help your kids learn English and your language. Your kids will learn English faster if they also keep speaking and learning your language!
  • When your kids are at home, let them speak in both languages.
  • Ask them to read books in your language. Watch movies and listen to music in your language.

I am worried my son or daughter is using drugs or alcohol.

  • If you are worried your son or daughter is using alcohol, you can talk to your doctor or to their teacher. In the United States, teachers help families. It is very normal to talk to teachers.
  • You may feel embarrassed. You might not want people to know your child is having a problem. But if you hide the problem, it will get worse.