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Leaving a 10 year old at home alone

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


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.

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.

freddiemisagreatshag Mon 25-Feb-13 19:48:47

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.

Doilooklikeatourist Mon 25-Feb-13 19:51:10

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!

freddiemisagreatshag Mon 25-Feb-13 20:10:35

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.

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