DSS left alone early in morning.(23 Posts)
I've name changed for this but I am very much a regular poster. (I don't know why we write that at the beginning, as if it makes any difference)!
I have a DSS who has just turned 10. He lives with his mother in a small flat in a town about 50 miles away from us. We have him every other weekend and holidays (i have 2 DSs as well, one of whom is his half brother) and he is generally a happy and well behaved boy.
His mother works in a supermarket. She works shifts and most often does an early shift so she can collect her son from school at 3.30. But it means she leaves the flat at 6.30am, leaving him to get himself up, breakfast, dressed and walk to school (over 2 miles). He's capable of doing this but when he told my DH he was miserable and said he hates it and feels a bit scared and lonely.
I just wanted to ask really, is this OK? Is it even legal? This isn't about DHsX, she does her best, nor about point scoring etc, I just feel sad for DSS and wonder if we should say anything. DHsX does not speak to us and is very very hostile, so saying something would cause a big row I am sure
It's not ideal but she's probably just trying to do the best she can. Out of hours child care is expensive and supermarket work won't pay enough to cover it. Is there some way that maybe you could help out financially do he can taxi to yours to get ready for school or can ur dh go over and be with him. ?
Sorry read five not fifty but maybe chip in for child care?
its not an ideal situation, but unless your dh if prepared to pay for a child minder I think you need to keep your nose out of it - I very much doubt that this was her first choice, and I doubt she has many options. Being a single parent is bloody hard.
FWIW, many kids grow up as latch key kids, the difference being that they are alone at the end of school until 5:30ish. All power to the ex, she is making sure she is there for him after school.
What about buying him a phone? So he can call one of u in the morning if he feels scared ?
It is absolutely fine and normal for a 10 year old to be on his own in the early morning and to get up and dressed and get himself to school on foot. All children, given the choice, would prefer their parent(s) to be there in the morning to wake them, cuddle them, give them breakfast etc. But they don't always have that choice.
Can you brainstorm with your DSS to think of ways to keep himself happy in the morning? Does he put the radio on? Does he have nice cereals etc for breakfast? Maybe you could take him to the supermarket and let him look at all the options for breakfast so that he feels in control of his time?
Maybe your DH could call his son every morning for a five minute chat and some kind words? Or maybe alternate with grandparents etc? I'm sure that would make a different to loneliness.
IIRC it's not illegal to leave kids home alone. However at any age parents can be liable if they come to harm.
It isn't unreasonable for a 10yr old to get them self to school etc. In my "baby steps to independence" theory kids need to be able to do this by the time they start secondary anyway (they should have the skills even if they don't have to do it) and for summer borns this means thy are only just 11 by then.
Thank you for your replies. He does have a phone, but he never calls DH on it anyway. The problem is he loves his mum very much obviously, but she has MH problems (bipolar) and can be quite volatile and has massive hatred and resentment towards DH and I. She had a spending problem and had every store /credit card and ran up around £60k debt and was out if work and eventually made bankrupt, lost her house and ended up in a council flat. DH and I have a successful business and have worked very hard for what we have. DH pays a lot of maintenance for DSS (over what he should). But she is consumed with hatred and jealousy of us (evil texts to me etc) I ignore her behaviour as I don't want to get involved in her games. The thing is that she treats DSS as if he were her adult partner, offloading her feelings, hatred of us onto him etc. he knows absolutely everything she feels, he says he has to look after her all the time. He's often been neglected and she has been reported to SS twice in the past (not by us).
So this is why DSS never phones us (he doesn't want his mum to know and for her to be upset). If DH suggested paying extra for an early morning childminder (do they exist?) she would take it that he was saying she can't cope and that we are trying to take DSS off her etc etc and there would be major hysterics with it. Plus when given extra money (cash) for various reasons such as DSS needs new shoes, she has appeared the next day with new highlights and DSS has no new shoes.
When he's here he is happy, fun and lively. He becomes quite anxious and silent in the car when taken back to meet his mum.
I'm off track sorry. I'm sure there's not much to be done about the early morning thing. Is it legal to leave a child aged 10 in the house for 2 hours alone though?
Oh lots of replies whilst I was typing! Thank you!
I guess I will just leave it and see if DSS becomes more comfortable with it over time. Glad to know its not illegal. I also agree on the baby steps to independence thing.
"Is it legal to leave a child aged 10 in the house for 2 hours alone though?"
Yes of course it's legal. A parent's responsibility is to ensure their child comes to no harm - which is not the same as needing an adult present all the time.
What would you suggest she do as an alternative though?
I dont think you would get a child minder for a nearly secondary school aged child at 6:30am.
This is the reality of working single parents.
It sounds like she works really hard too.
I don't know Amber, that's why I asked.
But thank you all for your replies as I have been worrying about it and now have a clearer perspective on it and am seeing sense.
Your more recent post puts another angle on it though, does he get any support from any of the young carers groups?
There are local groups too, if you google youngcarers and his local area you'll get a better idea.
Sorry forgot to live link it/
young carers site
And re the money side of things I guess if he needs new shoes etc you need to get them for him rather than giving her cash? Obvious but no doubt another walking on eggshells moment.
He's lucky to have you.
Agree with suggestion of young carers support. Sounds like his mum will have ongoing MH issues so it would be good to get your DSS linked into supports from an early age.
I also think you could talk through scenarios with him- what would you do if you burnt the toast/ spilled the milk/ lost your gym kit and reinforce his confidence.
It might be worth reinforcing that his mum loves him and she is going to work to help support him( not to abandon him)
I was left at this age and I didn't like it much. It didn't last long in my case as Mum saw that it made me miserable. Some kids would be fine....since your DSS is not fine, it's not ideal.
If you are worried about suggesting carers support, maybe your DH could speak to his sons school and they could bring it up/refer him?
Finding a childminder or a breakfast club would be great - your DH could pay that directly if both the parents are willing to let it happen. But... I know he doesn't like being alone, and it's not ideal, but to be honest she's doing it so she can be there for hometime at school. I would agree with her that that is more important, and getting himself up, fed and dressed and to school on time speaks very well of him. I'd just reinforce how proud you all are of his responsibility, and he can call anytime.
The other stuff... offloading her feelings onto him, etc... sounds a lot more serious.
Bonsoir's suggestion that your DH phone him in the mornings is a good one. My DS is 11 and has about an hour at home by himself after school. My mum phones him most days. They both love it!
My DD (8) often rings my mother (in England, but the telephone is free) when we are out and she is alone with her brothers. It's good for DC to have people they can ring up for a friendly chat if they are a bit lonely - as The Fallen Madonna says, grandparents love this!
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