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WWYD - 11 and 7 year old being left alone

(59 Posts)
BlueBlueElectricBlue Fri 26-May-17 09:16:15

Struggling with this.

I know a single mum (rather not say how, not related, but I don't want to be outed), who is leaving her (just) 11 year old and her (just) 7 year old alone every week day after school until 8pm.

Just 11 year old is very sensible, just 7 year old is not.

She is leaving them to go to work as it's the only work she can find. I feel a lot of sympathy for her, no family support, difficult to find work, work doesn't pay well enough for childcare costs.

However, it feels a REALLY long time for her to leave them and she is going a way away.

I don't know how to tackle this at all. Or, in fact, if I should. FWIW her background is very different to mine and I get the impression that in her home country kids being left on their own is much less of a big deal than it is over here.


icy121 Fri 26-May-17 09:17:34

Offer to help out?

BlueBlueElectricBlue Fri 26-May-17 09:21:13

Icy - every day? After school for 5 hours? And feed two extra children dinner everyday? And then drive them back to her? I'm a nice person, but a single mum on a budget, and without wishing to sound like a dick, have things I want to do with my evenings that don't involve someone else's children.

Also, I'm not home from work until 4, and they would be there from 3, and I'm not comfortable having a 7 year old only supervised by an 11 year old in my house.

RB68 Fri 26-May-17 09:23:46

There is nothing to stop you being a point of contact for them though - so that were something to happen to get in touch with or come round to yours. Or maybe just have them once a week. Or even just have the younger one as older one is probably OK

BlueBlueElectricBlue Fri 26-May-17 09:25:44

In fact, I did help out. Every day for 3 weeks. But it all got a bit much.

BlueBlueElectricBlue Fri 26-May-17 09:28:33

Oh no, I'm happy to be there in any emergency, of course. I really like both the kids and the mum. But my DD has a bunch of activities and we go and see friends/family and I have my own commitments.

I'm really confused as to why people are seeing this as my problem to solve TBH. I was asking if I should be concerned about the setup I guess.

caffeinestream Fri 26-May-17 09:31:02

It's not great, but maybe she has a neighbour keeping an ear out so they have somewhere to go in an emergency?

I wouldn't be too concerned about the 11yo on their own, but I do think that's too young to be in charge of a just-turned 7yo for several hours on their own.

I also don't know why PP's think you should be the one to step in and care for her kids!

MatildaTheCat Fri 26-May-17 09:31:42

If your DC are at the same school I would have a quiet word with them. My SIL leaves her DC aged 7&9 for an hour sometimes and that makes me uneasy.

icy121 Fri 26-May-17 09:32:31

What do you want to do?

Seems you have 3 options:

1. help her out, either by having them or being a point of contact - but you've done that so it doesn't sound like that's your preference;

2. You can not get involved and leave her to it; or

3. you can involve 3rd parties (school/ss?)

Are you looking for support in perusing the 3rd option?

LovelyBath77 Fri 26-May-17 09:35:29

Really difficult situation. You're concerned but not wanting to get her into trouble?

EatTheChocolateTeapot Fri 26-May-17 09:38:53

It's not ideal but it doesn't sound like she has any other option so leave them be. You could have a playdate once a week and the other mum has a playdate with your DD at the weekend so that gives the 11 years old a break? TBH at that age I was sometimes left supervising my baby sister (although my mum was in the house somewhere else so not the same situation).

LovelyBath77 Fri 26-May-17 09:38:53

You could ring NCPCC (number on website) if you are concerned, they can anonymously contact SS who would check it out if they are worried. Or maybe she could get some childcare sorted, via after school club, maybe she could get it funded if she's on benefits but she just doesn;t know? Not sure.

BlueBlueElectricBlue Fri 26-May-17 09:39:10

I guess I want to know if people would fall into camp 2 or camp 3 in your list Icy.

I'm in between, as I think the kids are generally ok, but it seems like a really long time to leave them and it would be awful if something happened. She's an hour on public transport away. I'm happy to be there in an emergency, but I'm not always local in the evenings.

LittleGreenPear Fri 26-May-17 09:39:34

It's not a difficult situation at all. But you'll get lots of people coming on and being idiots, suggesting all sorts of nonsense

You don't leave primary aged children alone in the house for five hours every day. In your position, I'd probably tell the school or social services and leave it to them to deal with

Not to get her into trouble or anything like that but because this isn't something that should be happening. So put it in the hands of the professionals who'll know what to do.

Anyone coming on here telling you it's normal to leave children for 25 hours a week on their own isn't worth listening to

sashh Fri 26-May-17 09:45:14

I think you need to take a look at what the dangers are and be the point of contact you are at the moment.

My brother and I and the next door neighbour's son were left alone once a week for that length of time. There were discussions about what ot do if the TV set on fire, no don't get a bucket of water, you call 999 and get out of the house.

If the 7 year old has been brought up culturally to be alone they are in a different situation to one who has been wrapped in cotton wool.

An extreme example of children's independence is the grandfather of someone I worked with. As a child his parents were missionaries (would be victorian times) and he would get the train and ferries cross countries to China at the start of his summer holiday and then do the reverse journey at the end. Now that would attract social services these days but children who regularly have responsibilities do take them on.

Another family I know who moved to France allowed their children to travel back to grandparents at, probably, 12 and 10. They were fine and soon found out if they reported to staff one was feeling sea sick they would be put in a cabin on the ferry.

I know you can't be there or them with you, but could you do a daily skype with them? Maybe have them call you? Could you have them over 1 day a week? Or one day a month?

No it is not your responsibility to pick up for this woman but it sounds like she is doing what is the best she can for them.

Lots of children that age come home to a parent who is physically in the building but mentally away on drugs/alcohol/mental illness.

Jupitar Fri 26-May-17 09:47:48

I think just turned 7 is too young but from the age of 8 they're allowed to leave school without someone collecting them, so it's not that young.
Also it depends on the actual children, if it's 2 girls who can occupy themselves and make some food without burning the house down, then it's reasonable there again if it's 2 boys who are more inclined to beat each other up and can't make toast without blowing the toaster up then I'd be worried

Ps I'm not sexist honest grin

RedSkyAtNight Fri 26-May-17 09:48:25

There's another thread running at the moment where someone wants to do similar with a 13 year old ,2 11 year olds and a 6 year old. The overwhelming response is that this would be a really bad idea. With the oldest child being 11, this scenario feels even less of a good idea. Presumably they are having to make their own evening meal as well? Unless you're prepared to report her I'm not sure what else you can do other than offer sensible suggestions. If the job doesn't pay enough for childcare it may mean that their parent just can't do this job.

Serialweightwatcher Fri 26-May-17 09:48:30

Is there a neighbour of hers or a friend she can put down as an emergency contact or someone who could call them maybe a couple of times in the evening to check up on them? It sounds like you have a close relationship and that's why you're worried (quite rightly so), which makes me think you wouldn't want to report her in any way. It's tricky because that's a long time on a regular basis and they are both pretty young.

newnoo Fri 26-May-17 09:49:35

I think Christine Lagarde - the chairwoman of the IMF was left alone a lot to look after her two year-old twin brother and sister when she was just four years old.

I think her parents were musicians and had to go out at night to perform. Something like that. I can't remember I read it in a book somewhere. She said she stayed up late constantly to look after them.

Not saying it's right at all. That's far too young. But she said being independent from such a young age has helped her believe she can do anything in life.

In Germany too and other parts of Europe, kids are far more independent by the age of 8. Going to school by themselves etc.

Do they have a point of contact for an emergency?

I think calling social services seems a bit mean. So they'll take away her kids and her job? Her life will cave in? When she's only trying to do her best?

What else can she do? She's stuck between and rock and a hard place.

Yes something might happen at home. There's always risks in life.

I don't know I'll probably get flamed for my opinions - but what other options does she have?

halcyondays Fri 26-May-17 09:50:39

Tell school or ss. Would anyone here leave an 11 year old (their own or someone else's) to look after a 7 year old for 5 hours every day after school?

halcyondays Fri 26-May-17 09:52:16

At our school, children can leave on their own from 7/8 with permission but there is a huge difference between them walking home to a house where a parent is at home or due to return in a very short time and being alone for 5 hours with no adult at hand.

halcyondays Fri 26-May-17 09:53:33

I have two girls and wouldn't leave them as they would fight.

LovelyBath77 Fri 26-May-17 09:53:38

Well she would have other options, if she's a single mum on benefits or tax credits, I think at most they would expect her to work 24 hrs a week?

itsonlysubterfuge Fri 26-May-17 09:53:55

When I was 11 I watched my little sister who was 6. We got home around 3:30 and my Dad got home around 6:30. I didn't have any problems. I was a very sensible child and looked after my little sister, who would often go out to play and I would keep an eye on her. I would even fix us afternoon snacks. I also did my chores before my Dad got home where I would load and unload the dishwasher and clean the kitchen. I did it every single school day.

In the summer holidays I would be at home from 7:30am - 7:30pm...

AnnieAnoniMouse Fri 26-May-17 09:53:59

I think in our culture they sound quite young, but in other cultures they don't. I'd leave her to it, there's nothing you need to report, it's just something you personally wouldn't do.

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