Leaving a 10 year old at home alone

(73 Posts)
TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:12:08

Hi,

A little background first. I am a Dad to 2 children living 20 miles away, they live with their mum - we are divorced.
Just this evening I phoned to speak to the children and my youngest (age 10) answered and said he was on his own in the house as his 12 year old sister was at a dance class and his mum had gone to the gym.
When I asked how long he'd been on his own he didnt know, but his mum had said that his sister would be home in 10 mins. I stayed on the phone until his sister got back after 40 minutes.
What I would like to know is is this normal as I wouldnt personally leave him on his own but dont have a say as they live with their mum and for me to bring it up would cause an arguement no doubt.

I just feel that leaving a child of 10 on their own (even for an hour) to go to the gym seems odd, but maybe i am over cautious.

Please let me know what you think on this as i feel bad about the whole situation.
Thanks

bluebluecow Mon 25-Feb-13 19:14:01

I have a 10 year old and I wouldn't leave her to go to the gym.

derektheladyhamster Mon 25-Feb-13 19:16:54

Yr 5, 10 year old or yr 6?

I left my then yr 6 for up to about an hour, my now yr 5, probably for about half an hour.

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:18:32

Year 5 10 year old. He is 11 in September

This is one of those situations where it really depends on the child. I leave my 11 year old if I have to to go to the supermarket or pick up her siblings. But not for more than about an hour.

Fairylea Mon 25-Feb-13 19:21:05

Personally I wouldn't leave my year 5 dd home alone. I don't think they have the sense to make judgements about opening doors to people or fire hazards no matter how sensible they seem to be.

I think so much depends on the child. I would leave my Year 4 (9 year old) DD in a pinch but she is extremely responsible and conscientious. Not to go to the gym though. My 6 year old DD on the other hand I suspect will not be left alone even for 5 minutes until she is 21. grin

I do think it's a shame that you can't discuss this with your children's mum though. Maybe she has put some safeguards in place, e.g. a neighbour is calling in, or the 10 year old has been coached how to call for help, not to answer the door etc.

mercibucket Mon 25-Feb-13 19:21:41

I probably wouldn't go to the gym, but might go for a run, and have definitely done pick up/drop offs at after school club while the ten year old played on his xbox

mercibucket Mon 25-Feb-13 19:21:41

I probably wouldn't go to the gym, but might go for a run, and have definitely done pick up/drop offs at after school club while the ten year old played on his xbox

Hulababy Mon 25-Feb-13 19:21:41

I have a 10y DD (11 in April) and I wouldn't leave her for that length of time, home alone. DD is a sensible girl and no doubt would be fine, but it just feels wrong to me. I've left her for 20 minutes maybe to go to local shops, but that's it.

She does go and play out for longer, but she isn't alone - she is with friends. So that feels very different.

HotPinkWeaselWearingLederhosen Mon 25-Feb-13 19:22:36

I'm happy to leave my 10 yo for 20-30minutes. But not to go to the gym or similar. He is very sensible and can call me if he needs to.

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:23:55

Fairylea, I was a bit worried when he said he didnt know how long he'd been on his own or what time his mum would be back. She may have told him but the fact he didnt know makes me think he shouldnt be on his own. He said the door was locked, which is great but i didnt ask if he had a key.....what would happen if he needed to get out??

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:25:47

I tried to phone his mum but phone went to answer phone, so it would be the same if my son tried to call her in an emergency i suspect.....too busy in the gym

I can leave my kids and have a neighbour on standby who they know to go to.

Is this something you want to make an issue of TadDad? Do you generally have a good relationship with your ex?

Hulababy Mon 25-Feb-13 19:29:43

Many gyms don't allow you to have a phone on. I definitely wouldn't be comfortable being somewhere my child couldn't contact me if they needed to.

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 19:30:54

My DCs walked to school alone when they were 10, so I wouldn't have a problem with them being safe at home for an hour.

Why is the fact that their mother was 'at the gym' such an issue? Would it be ok if she were miserable having root canal dentistry?

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:33:25

Freddie, i try very hard to talk to my ex about issues i have but she takes everything personally...dont want to bog down this thread with those issues really.
I do know that she doesnt know the neighbours that well so i doubt they would be on standby.
I wish I lived closer as I would have them both whilst she goes to the gym

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 19:35:19

What message did you leave her?

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:35:35

LineRunner, I dont have an issue I was just nervous after i had tried to call her and she didnt pick up....it could have been our son calling her in trouble.
The problem to me is that she doesnt tell me these things

ggirl Mon 25-Feb-13 19:36:13

well it's a choice issue I guess, if she was stuck and desperately needed root canal treatment then it's a one off
going to the gym can be done at another time

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:37:12

I didnt leave a message, just phoned my son back straight away until his sister got home

God, what a nightmare for you. Really sorry and it must be difficult to make these kind of decisions etc when not living together. Really think you should talk with her, however tricky.

How lovely you wish you could have them while she is at the gym - I;d be the same, true. Must be hard to think he's alone when he has a perfectly good parent that good look after him.

Is he usually left with big sister?

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:37:46

Thats what i am thinking ggirl

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:39:56

mumblecrumble....thank you for your support. I dont really know and i guess that makes me a bad parent for not knowing. I know that my 12 year old daughter is left alone but i am ok with that but this is the first time i have found out that he has been home alone

ggirl Mon 25-Feb-13 19:40:40

My ds walks to school with friends
I would leave him alone at home for a short time , 20mins ish . He's better if there is a friend here with him.
My ds gets a bit nervy on his own though. Some kids are absolutely fine.
OP was your son relaxed about it?

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:43:08

ggirl, he did seem relaxed about it, but he is very agreeable to everything really and is a 'yes' child!
It may be just me being over nervous. His mum obviously thinks its ok to leave him, but do i have a say what i think?

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 19:44:30

Lord, it is so hard being a lone parent, though. You think, 'At what age...?' all the time. You think, 'OK, I've got to drop X off, pick X up, do this, do that...'

If you have a judgemental or flakey or vague Ex, it's very difficult. It's actually easier not to ask than to ask because you don't the excuse, the rejection, the lecture.

And tbh, 10 is old enough to be left in a safe environment for an hour. And if the mum were driving, she could hardly pick up the phone. I can't pick up the phone when I want when I'm at work, even to my DC.

So, OP, why don't you just offer to help out?

akaemmafrost Mon 25-Feb-13 19:48:18

He doesn't live close enough.

I think 10 is too young. I wouldn't.

BackforGood Mon 25-Feb-13 19:48:41

It really does depend on the 10 yr old (and the time of day) IMO.
I've left my dd2 (dc3) regularly from Yr5, indeed Yr4 for shorter times, and had no concerns about it. I'd have been less confident when ds(dc1) was 10.
We are also blessed with lovely neighbours all around, and my dd2 is very confident, and quite used to using the phone, and indeed, has been going out, or being left at home without an adult for some years, as older siblings have been there.
Not only was ds not used to this (being without an adult) , he was FAR less likely to 'do the right thing' or follow any rules I'd left, such as not opening the front door, or not cooking. So it does depend a lot - there's no 'set' age.

No TadDad you don't have a say. Just as she doesn't when the kids are with you. She's made a decision that isn't ridiculous - he's not 10 months, he's 10 years old. It's on the cusp of when most people do that sort of thing.

Unless you're going to help out, you can't say anything.

I left my DD when she was 10 .
I knew she was capable , and enjoyed the privelege .
However , we lived on a nice housing complex of executive homes ok a Barrats estate she had strict instructions about not answering the door and so on .
Maybe the Ex saw your number on the phone and chose not to answer it , but would have answered the children , had they called .

ggirl Mon 25-Feb-13 19:51:57

I think you should bring it up as diplomatically as possible.

Could be that your daughter should have been home after 10mins so your ex was thinking he would only be alone for a short time.

Maybe if you offer to be available next time it will encourage you two to communicate when she does need to go out.

5madthings Mon 25-Feb-13 19:52:33

I think at that age its fine tho obviously all children are different. Even if your ex doesnt know the neighbours well i am sure they can be called on in an emergency.

I have a 13 yr old and a 10 yr old who will be 11 in july so pretty much the same ages and they are fine in their own for a bit togethet or alone.

Tbh i dont think that there is much you cam do if you think they are in danger then raise it appropriately and if you wont leave them whilst they are in your care then dont but whilst they are in your ex's care she can choose to leave them.if she wishes.

OverlyYappy Mon 25-Feb-13 19:54:00

I wouldn't but I guess every child, parents and family is different. I would love to go the gym/running (at 6am when I am awake and them asleep) but I wouldn't do it as I wouldn't leave them alone, although I realise the chances of anything happening is well, very little,I always think 'what if?'.

I leave DS1 for an hour maximum, never DS1 - almost 13 & DS2 who is almost 9 but they fight a lot.

5madthings Mon 25-Feb-13 19:54:25

And yes maybe daughter was late and maybe she didnt answer her mobile when she saw it was you calling but woukd have answered if she saw it was the children.

Amphitrite Mon 25-Feb-13 19:54:46

I would leave my 10 year old for this amount of time as I know she would be absolutely fine with it. Other 10 year olds might not be. I don't think there is a problem with your ex doing this, but if you think your DS was unsure about timings, what to do in an emergency etc perhaps you could bring this up with her in a non-confrontational manner - ie I understand DS is growing up now so can we mutually agree a strategy for allowing him to manage his extra freedom. I certainly wouldn't go in all guns blazing, because to me a 10 year old should be learning to cope with being alone for short periods of time at least.

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 19:58:02

Freddie, thanks - i wish i could be closer, i felt like getting in the car but it would take me 40 mins to get there and i am looking after my step son and my youngest son (2) who I do live with

OddBoots Mon 25-Feb-13 19:59:54

I have and would leave my Y5 daughter at home if I need to pop out for a short time and she doesn't want to come but at such times I get a 'virtual' babysitter for her, one of her grandparents or her uncle will Skype with her while I'm out. Is this something you could offer to do assuming it wouldn't impact your work?

middleeasternpromise Mon 25-Feb-13 20:00:22

Do you have a say ? well yes but where will it get you with an ex who thinks you are checking up on her and being critical. I think you need to get a bit more validation on the story from his sister perhaps, first. Boys are often not great at remembering what is said to them so she may just have left and she may have believed his sister was going to be back in 10 mins - perhaps she got delayed which derailed the plan.

Legally speaking the mother isnt going to be in trouble so long as nothing happens. If it does she will be liable for issues of neglect thats how the law works on this subject. My 12 year old is experimenting with increasing independence at home but I would be frantic if I ended up somewhere with no signal as thats my biggest comfort - knowing they can ring me. Gyms are notoriously poor places for phone reception so that does influence how you might feel about this sort of issue - how was either child going to summon help if needed?

I would get a bit more information on this before deciding what to do and I would make sure son has your number to hand in case of emergency as a back up (I know you arent near by but you could at least help him to get help) I would also be asking sister what the arrangements are in terms of being out/coming back to house/brother being home alone etc - then decide if theres enough for you to be concerned about.

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 20:04:28

middleeasternpromise - many thanks for your reply. You make a lot of sense, and more importantly put my mind at rest.
I will speak to her about it but also realise that it isnt a crime to leave a 10 year old alone....i just wouldnt do it.

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 20:05:18

Do you mind if and when your older children have to walk to school and back on their own, OP? That must be a worry for you.

TadDad Mon 25-Feb-13 20:09:10

LineRunner - i have said that i may be over cautious so please dont pick fault at worrying for my children. Only my oldest gets the bus to school which i am happy albeit a little nervous about, but that is a different issue isnt it?

signorapacino Mon 25-Feb-13 20:10:09

Absolutely not!

You have to let them go, that's one of the hardest things you ever do, and the sensible way to do it is with small steps.

Perhaps that's what your ex is doing?

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 20:11:03

Yes it's a different issue, in as much as a woman presumably isn't at the gym.

MrsEricBana Mon 25-Feb-13 20:13:33

I have dcs age 12 (yr 7) and 10 (yr 5) and I have been leaving the 12 year old alone for shortish stints for the past year or so (collecting dd usually) and longer ones recently (supermarket etc). I wouldn't leave dd aged 10 alone or with ds and she doesn't want to be left. I certainly wouldn't leave a 10 year old at home alone to go to the gym BUT perhaps it is ok to leave a 10 year old depending on the specific child, circumstances, neighbours etc. I think you'll have to raise it with her. I do sympathise.

MrsEricBana Mon 25-Feb-13 20:14:16

Getting bus to school is different.

Fairylea Mon 25-Feb-13 20:15:22

I don't understand why people seem to be giving you a hard time. I know there's not much you can do but if my dd came back from her dad's saying he popped out and left her home alone I'd be livid. I appreciate maybe I'm in the minority but.... !

Prime example of accident waiting to happen... dd made toast the other day. Toast gets stuck. I have told her several thousand times not to use a knife to get the toast out. I walk in to find her about toput a knife in to retrieve the toast! She knows it's dangerous but doesn't really appreciate the risks. She isn't daft either. She's got lots of common sense and is in the top groups at school.

Also how about if someone called at the door and said there was a fire next door so they needed to evacuate or something like that? How would they know whether to judge if that was the truth or just someone trying to gain entry?

Things like that worry me. I don't think 10 year old's can judge situations very well even if they can do the basics of looking after themselves.

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 20:15:34

TadDad Sorry I've had a long day as a lone parent and have a had a very long decade to be honest.

I would never ever put my DCs in harms's way or upset them - but they do need to grow up and even mums need a life, and sometimes lone parents do need to be in two places at the same time and have things said by DCs that are a bit vague when they, the mums, have made terribly specific and safe plans.

Sorry if I came across as snippy.

MrsEricBana Mon 25-Feb-13 20:17:00

Re children being aware of time - the first time I left ds for any length of time I said I would be 1hr, got caught up and was 70 min and he went to the neighbours in tears and said I had been 2.5hours as he could not remember exactly when I had left, and 70 mins seemed aeons to him.

MrsEricBana Mon 25-Feb-13 20:18:10

Agree with Fairylea.

FreckledLeopard Mon 25-Feb-13 20:19:17

DD used to walk to and from school on her own each day and would be home alone (totally alone) for up to 2 hours after school until au pair got home from collecting her step-brother. She was totally fine, very sensible and happy.

I'd stop panicking and be assured that your children are surely old enough and sensible enough to be home alone for an hour.

OverlyYappy Mon 25-Feb-13 20:28:10

My brother who was a single parent had the police at his door for allowing his DS aged 12 stay at home when he was sent home from school and a neighbour called them.

There is no law in place yet is there? I'm off to google, my thoughts were if the DC were deemed sensible enough by the parent, mine are not.

muddyin2013 Mon 25-Feb-13 20:28:14

I wouldn't leave my just 11 year old DD on her own for more than 15 mins.

It depends on the DC, are they happy to be left alone or scared.

I won't/wouldn't leave mine until they reached 12 years, for more than an hour.

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 20:30:27

No, Overly, there's no law.

That's why the Government are able to require lone parents to work full-time - the assumption is that older children can be left after school.

OverlyYappy Mon 25-Feb-13 20:31:19

Yes, parents discretion, same as 2 years ago.

Strange the police coming to my brother I must probe him further about that.

LineRunner Mon 25-Feb-13 20:33:33

Overly, was it a malicious complaint, do you think? Or a well meaning fuss on?

OverlyYappy Mon 25-Feb-13 20:36:05

I have thought a lot well my only option with this house is full time employment when I am well again.

No way would I leave mime 2 for 2 hours (after work)

My main worry is not my 12 year old. It's the hyperactive (not ADHD) naughty almost 9 year old. No way would that work, I don't see it being better when one is 12 and the other 15.... eek!

Cooker, toasters, anything tbh! I caught some other 12 year old carrying out a science experiment on my son, spraying deodorant and setting him alight.

I was home alone for this amount of time by 11ish I was fine from what I remember. My brother made me cheesy pasta and we fought a bit, no idea where my other younger brother went, he may have been there too...

OverlyYappy Mon 25-Feb-13 20:44:54

Hmm judging by the neighbours it would be well meant I think, if it was his ex and he thinks it was the parents then she was being a bitch I would think.

These things are best sorted out between each other I would think, I don't have this trouble any-more, my ex told SS I was a drug addict, had drug addict friends here all the time staying, my dc were dirty, i was dirty, i was an alcoholic and drove dc around drunk, the one that got to me the most was 'lack of dental hygiene' we are all terrified of the Dentist but had a clean bill of teeth confused 2 months prior, I was delighted to show her my Dental card....

So clearly I cannot sort things out with my ex.... thankfully SS know a show of random fake concern when they see one. and a drug addict and dominating fiend they came back with chocolates and toys for the DC, I am unsure if he expected that reaction (was Xmas) smile

Keep it nice OP express your concern and perhaps she will explain the situation.

"I wouldn't leave my just 11 year old DD on her own for more than 15 mins.

It depends on the DC, are they happy to be left alone or scared."

My 11 year old used to beg me to leave her alone rather than drag her all over the place to things I needed to go to or take her her sister to. Having been dragged all over as a child rather than left alone as I would have preferred, I listened to her. smile

KirstyJC Mon 25-Feb-13 21:41:37

I would be happy to leave my eldest year old for an hour, and have in fact left him for about 45 mins a few times so far (he is an extremely sensible 9 year old). Mainly when it has been impractical to take him - when he was ill and on the settee with the duvet, and I needed to go out to drop off then later collect the younger two from nursery. Again for about 30 mins the other day when he didn't want to go to the park as it was too cold, but DH/I and the other 2 wanted to get some fresh air.

He knows what to do, but we still drum it into him each time and don't go until he has repeated our instructions back - don't open the door, or answer the phone, whose house to go to in emergency (opposite) and what number/instance to call the emergency services.

I don't think I would have a problem with this, and as for your DS not knowing when she would be back, I doubt DS1 would remember either - time seems to have different meaning when you are younger - but he always knows it won't be long.

If it really bothers you, maybe you could try and bring it up diplomatically - eg mention you called the other day when she was at the gym, and would it help her out if you had him over for the evening then so she needn't worry about leaving him?

Pourquoimoi Mon 25-Feb-13 21:57:16

I wouldn't leave a 10 year old I go to the gym as going to the gym is a choice thing, not a necessity and also is somewhere with low accessibility for phones etc.

I started leaving ds1 alone for ten minutes here and there just before he was 11, then progressively more until at 12 he's left for up to an hour or two.

I left ds2 aged 9 alone this evening when I had to collect ds1, ds2 was in bed and I was out of the house for exactly five minutes.

I leave the two together for up to 15 minutes such as popping to village shop but wouldn't leave them longer for fear or arguments.

Clary Mon 25-Feb-13 22:05:59

I leave my kids home on their own but only all of them together (they are 13, 11 and 9).

The 9yo who is almost 10 is not keen being on his own, he is very gregarious. OTOH the 11yo is very keen and always has been.

I used to leave DS1 when he was about 10 for 20 mins when I took DS2 to Beavers - to save DS1 trolling out with us really. He was happy about it tho and that is crucial.

I don't think I'd do what you describe OP, tho if I thought someone wd be back in 10 mins I might. It must be tricky to get time to yourself if you are on yr own.

Clary Mon 25-Feb-13 22:08:16

My post makes no sense. What I meant was a) it depends on the child - eg DS2 9yo is not happy alone for very long - and b) an hour or more sounds like a logn time tbh.

I certainly leave DD who is the 11yo in yr 7 on her own for an hour. Tonight, for example, a meeting after work meant I got in at 5pm, Ds1 and DD had been in since 3.45, but Ds2 had only been home from school himself for 10 mins, so I felt it was OK.

jellybeans Mon 25-Feb-13 22:10:10

I wouldn't leave 10 YO DTs. Mine were about 12 before I left them for short periods at home.

My kids were going to school on their own from about age 8/9. Nearly all 12 year olds go to school on their own, surely? IMO this has more risks and choices/decisions on the part of the child (shall I go straight home or linger with my friends? shall I cross the road here or there? shall I stop at the sweet shop? what will I do if someone tries to talk to me?) than staying in the house on their own, yet so many parents seem happy to send their kids to school and back alone yet not leave them in the house at the same age.

AGiddyKipperInOneHand Tue 26-Feb-13 13:03:40

Personally, I wouldn't leave my 10 year old at home alone for a regular time/day in case ne'er-do-wells catch on and start noticing that the house is unlocked and vulnerable then. That was one concern when my youngest was 10 (it was very clear whether we were in at the house we lived at then). However, I did leave DCs alone now and then during the day when youngest was 10/Y5. It just felt like it was right to start leaving them alone at home now and then, as they were answering home phone, front door etc by then and we were setting ground rules for this, and good for their confidence building. Examples of why would be: if I needed to take other child to a friend's house or activity to drop off/collect; popping to the shops for something; posting a letter; picking up a parcel. I didn't start regular evenings out until youngest was nearly 13 and even then, it was for work and I was home by 8pm.

Having said all of that, it is hard to be a single parent, and it's important to have some time to de-stress. If their mum de-stresses best at the gym, and isn't able to get to the gym during the day then it is better for them all if she goes and does that and they have a happy home than she feels completely trapped with no life!

I'm not a single parent but my DH has been away for months at a time and I was able to get to the gym during the day - I really needed to do that!

cory Tue 26-Feb-13 18:01:13

Imo very much a case of knowing the individual child and the individual circumstances.

I did it with my two at that age (though not late at night) and they were always fine.
Otoh my neighbour got a sitter for hers.

I think we both made sensible level-headed decisions based on individual circumstances.

I felt reassured by watching how my two reacted in times of crisis, e.g. the time ds tried to boil milk in the kettle (being foreign, I had failed to explain about kettles) and when it started smelling had the sense to unplug the kettle rather than doing something silly and panicky. Or when ds had an accident and dd calmly started packing his hospital bag.

zzzzz Tue 26-Feb-13 18:08:39

What are you worried will happen?

So long as the child is sensible I can't see an issue.

rrrrrrriiiiiight.....

YouBrokeMySmoulder Tue 26-Feb-13 19:37:40

I think 10 is fine. Though I only walk places when leaving ds on his own for short periods. I wouldnt drive somewhere.

zzzzz Tue 26-Feb-13 19:44:19

I'd be more worried than he was lonely than in danger. Surely 40mins watching telly till his sister gets home isn't going to hurt him?

YouBrokeMyShoulder, someone else might run you over while you're walking! (Only joking.) But seriously, who knows what will happen? I've never had a serious accident either walking or driving, nor has someone knocked me out to steal my handbag, but I guess they might. (Touch wood!)

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