Leaving your children home alone is a pretty contentious issue, some parents thank that at a certain age, children should be left alone for short periods to help them learn independence, others think children should be in their late teens before you even think about it. For the vast majority of parents, they feel safe leaving their children alone for a few hours once they start secondary school, especially if they have older siblings that can keep an eye on them. For some with busy lives, leaving them alone for a few hours can be the only solution.
It it is something you’re considering, it is important to know that there is no legal age for leaving a child on their own but it is an offence if it places the child at risk. It is generally advised that children under 12 shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. The only real question is whether or not your child is mature enough to be left on their own. Just with everything else, when it comes to parenting, if you’re worried about it, don’t do it. If you’re worried about being overprotective, you could always leave them for a short time, such as popping into the garden or out to the car, to see how you feel and how they react.
If you find yourself thinking about whether you can leave the children alone for a little while, here are some things for you to consider.
- How far away will you be and how long do you think you’ll be?
- How mature/responsible are your children?
- Do they feel comfortable being in the house without you?
- How well do they know the neighbours? Would they be comfortable approaching them for help if they need it?
If you do need to leave your children at home on their own for a little while, the general advice is to ease into it. Don’t put any extra pressure on yourself by having a deadline or important appointment the first time. Don’t put any extra pressure on yourself by having a deadline or important appointment the first time. It is also a good idea to be close by for the first few times, is it is easy to get home straight away if you need to. If you decide that your child is mature enough and happy to be left alone for short periods of time, there are some things you can do to ease both your and your minds.
- Make sure they understand how important it is not to answer the door if they are at home alone.
- Leave clear instructions in case of emergency and make sure they know not to use any appliances such as the oven or microwave.
- Tell them what time you’ll be back and stick to it.
- Leave contact numbers and make sure your children know how to use the phone to get hold of you.
- Leave a contact number for someone else you trust in case you are unavailable.
- Set some ground rules so your child knows what they can and can’t do while you’re not there.
As ever though, you know your child best and everything depends on their maturity and your comfort level. There are so many variables, as your eldest child might be completely trustworthy and sensible, but your younger child might not be. It is all down to your discretion.