When Can Your Child Be Left Alone?

When Can Your Child Be Left Alone?

Is my child old enough to be left at home alone?

I typed that into Google this morning because it's a subject that's come up for discussion again at the school gates recently. And the answer is something of a minefield.

I've got friends who have routinely been leaving their kids home alone for an hour or two from when the child was around 11 years old but, speaking very personally, that feels too young to me.

Factor in that I have three kids with almost ten years between the oldest and the youngest, however, and you can see why I find the question of when to leave a child home alone a bit baffling.

According to the NSPCC, the law doesn't specify an age wherein a child can be left alone but states that you shouldn't leave a child alone if they'll be at risk.

Obviously you should never leave a baby or young child alone and you may be prosecuted for neglect if you do so.

The charity also advises that children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone and may not cope if an emergency arises while you're away, and that children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.

Ultimately, you know your child best and are therefore best placed to decide when they're ready to be left alone. Start by making sure they understand how to reach you and what to do in an emergency, and leave them for a few minutes at first until you both feel more comfortable with doing so for longer periods.

We'd love to hear your views on this. Leave us a comment here or come and join the debate over on our Facebook page. And don't forget to take part in our online poll to have your say.


17 comments

  • Holly H.

    It also depends on what "home alone" means. Is it leaving a 9 year old home alone to pop across the road to speak to a neighbour in the garden, or to nip to the shop 10 doors down, or for several hours while you food shop, while you go work an 8 hour day, while you stay out overnight? For me some are much more acceptable than others. I feel that leaving appropriately aged kids (juniors to seniors) home alone for a grand total for 10 minutes max, to collect a parcel a few doors down, or buy milk from the shop on the corner would be okay. But I would never leave them alone for half an hour. As they get older (mid teens) I'm sure that would change - and it depends on the child too. My eldest girl is very sensible and I feel she would manage to survive for 20 minutes without me, my youngest boy would have probably burnt the house down twice by then.

  • Anna S.

    Interesting one, if you trust them to walk to school on their own I’d say they can be trusted left at home alone for an hour. It completely depends on the child though. I think the law in this instance is correct to let parents decide when their child is ready, it shouldn’t be a catch all. I know 16 year olds that I wouldn’t leave at home alone and 10 year olds I would!

  • Cher M.

    My daughter is nearly 8 and prefers to watch tv while I walk the dog for 15 mins. I think this is ok but I wouldn’t dream of leaving her for anything longer.

  • Kim-Georgina G.

    I think you need to be more specific with the question, how long is alone? What is alone? Is alone leaving the house for ten minutes? I could be stood in the garden chatting to a neighbour whilst my son is in the house. Is it nipping to the shop and back? Is it an hour? Overnight? Such an open question is open to many interpretations and the stats you are gathering will be worth bugger all.

  • Laura H.

    , about 11 is fine with 2 young children :joy::joy:

  • Joanne S.

    theres my answer..... There isnt one!

  • Sharon B.

    In Jan my dad was dying of cancer. I genuinely got so caught up helping him I forgot my.8yr old was a home lunch from school. We live like a 2 min walk across 1 quiet road from the school, she can walk home alone safely. She came.home, I wasn't there so she called me. She wasn't upset. I was. However I also trust her and she knows what not to touch or do etc. She made herself a sandwich, a hot chocolate and set an alarm.to remind her to go back to school. She was proud of herself. Would i do it regularly? No. But, I do judge her to be old enough to be in her own for an hour or so, though I do not plan on doing it again soon. Each child is different.

    • Kerry A.

      That’s great she did all that on her own, very mature. Your daughter no doubt understood you had a lot on your mind. She sounds like an amazing young lady. Sorry to read about your dad. Take care.

  • Sonia M.

    My 4 yr old is autistic so I wouldn't leave her alone. My son is 8 and if I absolutely had to go out I would but not for long as I'd never stop thinking about him. He knows how to use the phone and has a key to the house now (I broke my foot so am currently housebound). He knows the neighbours and is wary about strangers. I'll feel better once we hv cameras up; neighbours hv keys too.

  • Louise M.

    Once they start high school.

  • KellyG

    My 10 year old daughter is poorly and off school and I've been leaving her for the 20 minutes it takes to do the school run with my little boy, but I would only leave her if I absolutely had to. This is the first time I've left her. I have two dogs that need to be walked and she said she didn't mind if I left her for half an hour, but to me it isn't absolutely necessary so the dogs will just have to do without a walk.

  • Leah S.

    I haven't left any of my children home alone as they are all quite young, but as my eldest approaches 11 it is something that has come to mind and in conversation with other parents. We do not let her 'play out' yet or have a mobile phone, even though most of her friends can and do. My thoughts at present are that I would rather leave her in the safety of our home for an hour, than let her go out to 'play' for an hour out of our sight and home...neither will be happening anytime soon even though she is a very mature and responsible girl. I just know I would never forgive myself if anything ever happened to any of them and as she is our eldest, we are still learning as her parents. It's a tough one... :thinking: X

  • Emma W.

    Depends on the kid really but for my eldest it was 11, few hours here and there. Now he’s 15 and I don’t see him from one morning to the next sometimes :joy:

  • Lauren M.

    Mine are all too young for me to feel comfortable leaving them any time soon (6, 5 and 2, even though to be fair my sassy pants 2 year old could probably take care of herself, and her brothers for a week :joy:) but there's other kids I know of varying ages who I would and wouldn't be happy to leave home alone for an hour. As everyone else has said it completely depends upon the child in question. I'd probably benchmark secondary school age as the time that I'll consider it. But even so it wouldn't be for longer than an hour or so.

  • Michele P.

    The poll needs to be more specific. How long the child being alone makes a huge difference to the answer. 5 minutes while the parent goes to the local shop is a big difference to 3 hours while the parent goes and socialises with friends.

    • Michele P.

      Having read through the comments, I see most of them are suggesting the same thing - I think you should take the hint and redo the poll lol

  • Minimum

    in Northern Ireland ( don't know about rest of UK, yes UK) but registered childminders and daycare providers will not take children once they hit 12 years of age as they are classed as adults and would have to under go access ni (police checks). It's not only the age of the child but level of maturity, intellect and trust. Those with learning difficulties, autism and other cognitive deficiencies need to be factored in and considered.  

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