Wednesday 6 November 2019

Is My Child Old Enough to Be Left at Home Alone?

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Every parent feels nervous at the thought of leaving their child home alone for the first time. It’s a difficult decision to make…but when is it the right time? 

I will hold my hands up and admit that as a parent I am very protective and if I could wrap my babies up in cotton wool for the next 18 years I would without a second thought! The idea of my babies being alone fills me with dread but I have to remind myself that James is almost 10 now and is seeking a little more independence every single day! 

He has recently started asking about walking home from school with friends as some other children in his class now do this. However as we live so far away from school and none of his friends really walk our way I have had to say no at the moment. However I know that once he starts secondary school he will want to walk to and from school with friends and I will have to let this happen.

I also know that it won't be long before he starts asking to be left alone, he already moans about coming to do the weekly shop or popping out! So I have been looking into the rules, laws and helpful tips on when is the right time to leave your child home alone.

Whilst there is currently no legal age requirement to leave your child unattended at home, however child protection experts say that ‘it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.’

The guidance given by the NSPCC is as follows;

- Children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time.
- Children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight.
- Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.

Here is some helpful advice from The Manor Preparatory School for parents who are considering leaving a child home alone for the first time

- It is important to evaluate your child’s readiness for this new responsibility. You know your child better than anyone, so take into consideration their maturity level and problem-solving skills, as well as their feelings about being left on their own. Just because a child is the same age as their peers who may be being left at home, it doesn't mean they are ready too. 

- It is also a good idea to do a few short practices (while you are nearby) to help your child get used to the idea of being home alone. Perhaps whilst you pop to a local shop or you go round to a friends house in the same street. That way you are close by should they need you, but out of the house so they get the idea of how it would be when they are home alone. 

- You should ensure that your child is capable of safely preparing food and drink and can confidently operate kitchen appliances without adult supervision. If you are worried, then you could prepare their meals in advance or only leave them when you know they won't need to prepare any hot food or drinks. 

If your child has access to the internet or social media channels, it is important to explain cyber safety and ensure that they do not mention to anyone online that they are home alone. Also if they are having friends over with them, ensure these are friends they trust and try to limit it to one or two friends. You don't want a house full of kids without you there, its also worth checking that the parents of those friends are aware you won't be in too!

Discuss potential emergencies such as a power cut, fire or a stranger at the door and explain what to do in such an emergency. Making sure they know what numbers to ring and have a list of emergency contacts close to the phone so they can easily find and access them. 

If you are worried or just want some reassurance you could try calling your child every so often to see how they are doing on their own, or ask a friend or neighbour to pop round and check on them. Let your child know this will be happening though and talk to them about why so they don't feel like you are "checking up on them" all the time. 

At what age did you feel comfortable to leave your children at home alone? 


**This is a collaborative post in which I received a fee.**

1 comment:

  1. I think with my teen she was about 13 before I left her home alone and that was just while I nipped to the shops. I was back within half an hour. I have never left my youngest who's 12 home alone. I think she would be fine but it has never came up.
    One night last year my fella and I had a meal out and we left both of them home alone together. My teen was 16 so was responsible enough. They just sat and played on their tablets and the xbox. lol x