Is my Child Old Enough to be Home Alone?

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It’s a rite of passage isn’t it? The first time you feel comfortable enough to leave your child unsupervised at home. Some children will be ready for this level of responsibility before others and it’s important to gauge your child’s feelings on the subject before actually leaving them alone.

The law is somewhat grey – it’s not legal to leave a child in a situation where they can encounter danger but there’s no specification on how old a child needs to be. The best way to look at this is to consider your home environment and your child’s skill levels. For example – most 14-year-old children are mature enough to be left alone for some time, but not in a situation where they’re responsible for smaller children and animals for a lengthy time period.

Most parents know that children under the age of about 12 are quite immature still. They lack common sense. But there are exceptions to the rule and some 11-year-old children would be perfectly capable of spending an hour at home alone and remain safe. Use your own judgement. It would be extremely careless to leave a very young child alone at home because under the age of about 11, children lack the confidence to make quick decisions or use their judgement.

Discuss the rules

Make sure your child knows how long you’re going to be away and when to expect you back. They should be informed of who to call in an emergency and have a list of safe adults to contact in addition to the emergency services. Good rules for children being left alone for the first time include the following. 

  1. No cooking 
  2. No leaving the property to visit friends or shops 
  3. No letting anyone into the house

Teach your child what to do if someone knocks on the door unexpectedly. It’s better to tell them not to answer. Let them know that you will be back at an agreed time and stick to it. Children who are trusted at home grow into confident and capable adults. This private school in London believes that responsibility helps children to become effective leaders. Once your child has the confidence to be left for longer periods of time, you and they will both relax more and it will become less of an event.

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