When it comes to the law and what age you can leave your child at home without adult supervision, the lines are quite blurry. It’s a big step for families and essentially comes down to your best judgement as a parent, because some 11-year-olds are far more mature than some 13-year-olds. Here are some tips from an independent school in London to help you determine whether or not your child is ready to be left at home alone and how you can prepare.
Consider your child’s level of maturity. The NSPCC suggest that a child under 12 is rarely mature enough to be left alone for long periods of time and children under 16 should not be left alone overnight, but all children are unique and their ability to solve problems will differ. Ask them how they feel about being left alone and if they have any concerns that you can address. Teach them how to prepare a basic meal and other skills they might need when they’re alone. It might also be worth doing a few practise runs where you just go for a short walk around the block or sit in the car, allowing you to rush back into the house if there are any issues.
Make sure your child has some emergency numbers to call if they have a problem, not just yours. If, for some reason, they are unable to get in touch with you, they need to have a backup plan. Discuss a few potential risks, like a stranger at the door, and teach your child what to do if these things happen. It’s also important to talk to them about cyber safety and remind them to refrain from mentioning online that they are home alone. Make sure that you outline some other clear-cut rules, like no using the hob, no inviting friends round etc.
Learning how to be responsible for themselves is a great skill for children to develop, but try not to throw them in the deep in. Start off with short bursts of time where they are left at home alone and then build up to longer periods when you’re all more comfortable. It might also help if you give your child a call a few times whilst you’re gone to check in with them and make sure they’re ok.