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.
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