Leaving kids home alone, what is a good age?
Most experts feel that between 10-12 years, a child can be left for a short period of time (under an hour) during the day, providing your pre-teen feels happy about being in the house on their own. Parents do sometimes have to leave their children because of juggling work and family commitments, various appointments and even doing the shopping, but they need to be able to do so confidently. The bottom line is that parents/carers are responsible for keeping their children safe – and this includes not leaving them ‘home alone’ until the child is mature enough to cope. Having said that, gaining independence, is an important part of growing up too, so when the time is right it is good to be be able to leave your child for short periods, to be ‘the captain of the ship’.
Deciding when is the right time depends on many factors. It will of course depend on the locality in which you live. Is it a quiet residential area with a low crime rate? Think about the character of your child too. In all honesty, do you think they are mature enough to be left? Have they shown good judgement in the past and are they responsible? Do you have a neighbour who can be on ‘standby’ if a problem arises. If you cannot answer these questions confidently, it may be worth slipping your plans for six months or so.
Rather than suddenly rushing out of the door and leaving your pre-teen to their own devices, it is best to discuss the situation well in advance and to ensure several important points are in place.
Preparing for your child to be ‘home alone’The most important thing to do before you leave your child ‘home alone’ during the day, is to check that they feel confident on staying in the house on their own. If they do not, you need to explore with them, the reasons why and to discuss a possible solution. It is important that when you leave them on their own for the first time that you do so for a short time and that you agree a time that you will be back. It is good to telephone them halfway through to ensure that all is going well.
There are a few important points to discuss with your child before you leave them on their own.
What will they do if the doorbell rings or the telephone?
Discuss what they would do in an emergency such as a house fire, a power cut or water leak. Practise with your child what they would need to do.
Have you good neighbours that your child can contact if there is any problem? Do you have relatives who could reach your home and child quickly if needed?
Make a list of important telephone numbers to pin above the house phone. Write your mobile number at the top of the list (no one remembers telephone numbers like they used to!) Make sure the list includes neighbours and family members who can help your child quickly. Include 999 and 111 as it is possible that when they are in panic, your child could forget such numbers!In conversation with your child, it is good to establish what they plan to do whilst you are out and to ensure that they are safe online.
We have mentioned leaving your pre-teen during the day. It is best to do so for less than an hour to begin with and to telephone in a couple of times to ensure all is well. It is best not to leave your child on their own in the evening until they are a year or so older and not to plan to leave them overnight until they are 16 years old.
Always remember that you are responsible for keeping your child safe at all times and that it is essential not to leave your child until they feel confident of being ‘home alone’.