What age to leave a child home alone?

(60 Posts)
Raeray Sat 04-Jul-09 20:08:30

Just wondering if you can help me.
Im currently doing a child protection course (I'm a paediatric nurse) and need to find opinions from parents on the issue I have chosen to discuss. The title of my essay, and presentation to the group is;
HOME ALONE - IS IT NEGLECT?
Now I realise this will gather a wide range of opinions and could spark a few debates, but this is what I will find interesting, and will be very helpful to me! So.....

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings?

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?

5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again?

and lastly (thankyou for bearing with me this far..if you have!)

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home from school alone?

Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance. Any other opinions on this would also be greatly received. grin

cat64 Sat 04-Jul-09 20:27:19

Message withdrawn

cory Sat 04-Jul-09 21:58:40

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?

Depends on how long, the personality and general competence of the child, the reason, the safety of the house, the proximity of neighbours etc who could help in an emergency.

For two minute trot down the road to post letters, not crossing any roads or getting in a car (so relatively little risk of being held up by accident), 5 or 6 with mine. Basically the age where you can be sure they won't run after you.

For half an hour/an hour trip to the nearest shop, I would want them to be of an age where you feel sure they would be able to be relied on not to play with the cooker etc, get out in an emergency, alert the neighbours, know the time well enough to tell if I am away for longer than I've said and ring somebody. In my case, with both my children, that has meant about 7 or 8.

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.

All day- have only got this far with dd, about 11. But then only in emergency (e.g. she has not been well enough to go to school but not with something that could rapidly deteriorate and I have had to go to work). Wouldn't do it if the child was terrified or likely to deteriorate.

All night- mine will probably want to be almost grownup for this one, and I wouldn't do it before they felt they were ready. 16/17, perhaps; we're definitely not there yet. When I was 16 I stayed for 3 nights in a foreign hotel on my own; looking back, I think that was quite ok and my parents made a reasonable risk assessment.

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings?

Depends on age and maturity/personality of both children. My 12yo can look after my 9yo for a few hours and (when well enough) takes him into town for a morning's shopping, but I would not let her do this if I thought there was any risk she would be less than responsible or that he would play up. Wouldn't leave her with a baby or toddler until pretty well grown up.

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?

There is no legal age as such, but if there is an accident you can be taken to court for negligence.

5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again?

It's a while since I started- dd is now 12 and ds 9- but I feel very confident with the results so far. They tend to concentrate and actually seem more sensible when I'm not there.

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home from school alone?

Depends totally on traffic/distance and maturity/personality of the child. The road to our local junior school is about a 10 min walk, with three roads, one of which has traffic lights, the other two lollipop ladies (though one lollipop lady often absent). Ds has been negotiating this road since 7 1/2. But then there are lots of children and parents walking the same way, it is a neighbourhood where people know each other and look out for each other, and I have had my spies confirm that he is very sensible about traffic.

Around here, virtually everybody walks home alone from secondary school- or takes the local bus.

fruitshootsandheaves Sat 04-Jul-09 22:09:43

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?

I would allow mine to be left on their own when they started middle school so that was aged 9 and the longest I left them was a couple of hours.
However recently my youngest has occasionally had to let himself in after school and be on his own for at most 45 minutes

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.

not left them overnight yet. Have left DD (nearly 16) alone on her own all day several times.

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings?

The first time I left DD to look after DS2 was when she was about 13 and he was about 5.

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?

as far as I know there is no legal age. It is up to you to judge when the child is mature enough, within reason and not for so long that it could be classed as neglect.

5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again?
N/A

and lastly (thankyou for bearing with me this far..if you have!)

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home from school alone?

My older 2 walked home at 13 its about 2 miles. It is impossible for them to have done this at previous schools as they were too far away and the route to the primary school has just been classed as too dangerous to walk, cycle at that age.

fruitshootsandheaves Sat 04-Jul-09 22:10:23

1) forgot to add he was 7 when he first had to do this

MangoJuggler Sat 04-Jul-09 22:14:10

1 age 7 for 10 minutes

2 not got there yet

3 age 10? don't really know

4 there is no legal age as I understand it - if there is an accident or mishap then it might be viewed as a Child Protection issue

5 yes

6 age 7 (village, one road to cross, with assitance from Lollipop Lady, half a mile)

All of the following is dependent on the maturity of the child - DS1 very sensible, DS2 may still have to hold my hand to cross the road when he's 15!

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?

From 9-10 for short periods if I was going somewhere local.

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.

Haven't done this yet. DH works locally so I might do it all day at 12. Overnight would be much later, perhaps 16.

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings?

It would depend on how much younger and what the siblings were like. I think I would feel comfortable with a 12-year-old looking after an 8 year-old for a very short time. I hope DS1 will be able to babysit if we go out locally from the age of 14.

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?

As far as I understand it there is no legal age.

5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again?

NA

and lastly (thankyou for bearing with me this far..if you have!)

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home from school alone?

DS1 did it from the age of 9 - only one major road to cross, about 8-10 minutes walk.

abouteve Sat 04-Jul-09 22:20:26

The guidlines are blurred, there is no legal age. As a lay person, just an average parent, I will sum up my experiences.

You have to go with the maturity of the child and how you feel they can cope.

I left my DD from age 9 for half an hour. At age 11 for a day. At age 13 for an evening. Recently at age 15 for a whole night, which I was uncomfortable with but it was DD who insisted that she didn't want arrangement made and wanted to be trusted to stay alone.

Last time I went away for a whole weekend, which is a rare occurrance, I made arrangements and she rebelled in my absence. Kicked up a fuss because she wanted to be home alone. Now I have vowed not to go away again until she is 16 which the advice is that it's OK then.

It's OK to leave them if you feel they are ready but you will be charged with neglect if anything happens. I personally would have preferred strict age limits.

Hope this helps with your recearch.

cory Sat 04-Jul-09 22:22:25

I am very happy that there are no strict age limits as children differ so much- and circumstances differ so much. Also, mine have Swedish cousins, so they know how much more independent children are over there.

Just to add, I would prefer there not to be any legal age limits because there are so many variables - maturity of child, safety of environment, assistance of neighbours or not, desperation of your need. As soon as you legislate a particular age you find those for whom the age is too high will be done an injustice and those for whom it is too low will be put in danger.

Parental discretion is the only sensible way to go, and I would be very resistant to any law which claimed to know my child and my situation better than I do.

numal Sat 04-Jul-09 22:26:50

Far older than when I was left alone. Same for every milestone.
How has it come to be that in one or two generations so much has changed?
Can it be that I love my DC more that my parents loved their DC?.
It is incomprehensible to me to give my DC the sort of freedom/benign neglect that I experienced.
Having said all that, I don't believe in the 'good old days'.
There was a so much child abuse/neglect in the past that was unreported.
I simply trust no-one when it comes to my DC. They are never left with carers/nannies etc.

MaryMotherOfCheeses Sat 04-Jul-09 22:30:45

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?
"Home alone" very emotive phrase. I left 7 year old DS in the house for 10 minutes whilst I talked to a neighbour across the road, does that count? I did recently leave him at age 8 for 20 minutes whilst I went to the shop in the car.

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.
All day? Probably at 13 or 14, like I was. Overnight, 16 perhaps. Dunno. Impossible to say what I'll do in the future. Will depend on what type of child DS turns out to be.

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings?
N/A

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?
No legal age AFAIK

5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again?
Rarely a need to. I'd leave him for 20 minutes if I knew DH was about to get home.

and lastly (thankyou for bearing with me this far..if you have!)

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home from school alone?
Well that depends on how far school is and what sort of roads etc. For me, not for the foreseeable future. We have a busy main road with a particular junction which is dangerous. I've seen too many cars go through the red light and DS is too much of a day dreamer.

shinyshoes Sat 04-Jul-09 22:30:53

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?

I have started to leave my 12 year old at home by himself if he is off school sick. I phone him, DP phones and my sister phones. I have popped in at lunchtime to see to his needs and DP is home by 3.30pm, this dosen't extend to a Diarreah and vomiting child. I would take the day off work for that.

On occasion I have left him for around an hour whilst I popped to the shop.

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.

I wouldn't leave my children overnight without an adult being present. Not at this age I wouldn't (eldest is 12)

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings?

Around 14 as I have an 18 month old and at the moment he is too young (maturity) to see to her needs

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?

is it 12?

5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again?

Yes I have explained on 2 occasions when he has had flu like symptoms I have left him. I certainly wouldn't the other 2 (8 and 18 mo) and popping to the shops for an hour max (take the other 2 with me)

and lastly (thankyou for bearing with me this far..if you have!)

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home

My 8 yo has done it but it's been on very desperate occasions (another child home that is too porly to be left etc.) we live literally 5 minutes from school and he has only done this on very rare occasion twice I think. His elder brother wasn't allowed to do it until he was in year 6

abouteve Sat 04-Jul-09 22:31:16

Yes in some ways I agree, luckily my DD is very mature and totally trustworthy, but it's always in the back of your mind that perhaps you are being neglectful without strict guidelines. IYSWIM.

Then you get the phonecalls which are nothing less than 'how dare you enjoy yourself without me' double guilt! lol

Or you are at work and they want to know what's for tea and why isn't it on the table.

cory Sat 04-Jul-09 22:32:53

I am sure I don't love my dcs any less than my parents do. But living in a university town (and being a lecturer myself), I do see the dangers of not letting children develop independence before they move from home. I also note that countries where children have more independence had much better figures for child happiness and a far lower rate of risky behaviour than this country. And I know that child mortality is no higher in countries where children have more freedom.

I trust my dd with dd. I have to- in 6 years time she is likely to leave home. And I know what dangers lie in wait for young students. If she can't be trusted to look after herself then, there will be nobody else to do it for her.

abouteve Sat 04-Jul-09 22:40:14

Cory, I've only got the one child so couldn't comment on older ones looking after younger ones.

Recently when I went away for 2 nights I stuck to guidelines and made arrangements for DD (15) to stay with a neighbour. She kicked off and I now realise that I should have let her stay on her own. The law does state 'never leave a child under 16 on there own for a weekend' so I stuck to that. That is the only 'law' I have ever seen written down in black and white. Realised after that I should have let her have the independance that she was clearly able to cope with.

cory Sat 04-Jul-09 22:44:31

sorry, abouteve, these threads move too fast for me; wasn't responding to your post but to numal who was speculating about the difference in attitude between now and then.

piscesmoon Sat 04-Jul-09 22:46:24

It all depends on the maturity and trustworthiness of the DC -I don't think you can generalise. I let mine walk home from school from an early age but I can see the school from my house so I don't think it counts! I think that you should aim to give DCs independence and so encourage them to do these things.

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?

part of the day? 5 hours, say, once they reach secondary school.

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.
over night? have not contemplated

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings? perhaps 14, but in my dc's case, not really, no longer than half an hour.. personal preference, although i was babysitting at 14, in the case of siblings, it is a whole different ball game.

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?
i think there is no legal age.
5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again? since 2 of my dc's started secondary school i have left them at home alone.

and lastly (thankyou for bearing with me this far..if you have!)

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home from school alone? my ds did cycle home but never allowed dd the freedom to do so.
not until secondary school, but that is not really alone

abouteve Sat 04-Jul-09 22:56:57

Cory, that's OK, been interesting to read this. Think I got it about right but know I should have been more child led and relaxed.

Anyway she is nearly 16 so reckon my role is ? Thank god I don't want to be made redundant from this role, ever.

what law AboutEve?
where did you read that?

abouteve Sun 05-Jul-09 00:06:50

On the social services website. We as parents of mature DC's have asked in the past but it's always been the same advice, as in, if you consider them mature enough fine, but if anything happens you will be charged with neglect. Then we read 'never leave a child under 16 over night'

Confused? You will be. Again it depends on which child.

BoysAreLikeDawgs Sun 05-Jul-09 00:14:38

eve can you link for us please ? smile

trefusis Sun 05-Jul-09 00:20:12

Message withdrawn

Fennel Sun 05-Jul-09 01:30:32

1) What age would you leave your child at home alone?

9yo I do, 7yo just occasionally.

2) For how long? ie what age would you leave your child all day or overnight perhaps.

9yo up to an hour, 7yo, 10 minutes.

3) What age would you deem you elder child responsible or able to care for younger siblings?

Not yet. depends for how long, and how young the younger child. for 5 minutes, maybe, at 8 or 9, wiht 5yo sibling, but only cos 5yo is pretty easy.

4)Do you know what the legal age to leave children home alone is?

no legal minimum

5) If you have recently left your child alone for the first time - would you do it again?

well, I do.

and lastly (thankyou for bearing with me this far..if you have!)

6) What age would you allow your child to walk home from school alone?

my 7yo has since 6 (nearly 7) but she's very responsible for her age, 9yo since 8, but she's a bit vaguer in general. it's only a 5 minute walk, not many roads, and lots of friendly/nosey neighbours who tend to look out for children though, it is easier here than in other places we've lived.

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