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At what age is it ok to leave your children?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by purplecardigan, Apr 25, 2012.

  1. A few weeks ago I dragged my children (13 and 11) around the garden centre on a visit that lasted longer than intended. On returning I remembered I'd forgotten something. Instead of taking my now fractious kids back the GC I decided to go to the local DIY store (5 mins away) and leave them at home.
    I was gone less than 20 minutes during which time the elder child allowed the younger one to go to a place he is not allowed. The older one, getting cold feet, went to fetch him back and in so doing locked them both out of the house.
    In order to get back in they knocked on my neighbour's door (a social worker who fosters 3 children), explained they had been left alone and could they go through her house and climb over the fence because they had left the back door wide open.
    I wouldn't mind so much but we have never left them alone before!
    Anyway my eldest Son, who is a big strapping lad, insists from next year he won't need a babysitter. I don't agree and I think the law is 16, but what about when he's 15 and 6ft tall?
    What do other people do?
  2. chocolateworshipper

    chocolateworshipper Occasional commenter

    There is no law that states what age you can leave children alone (although this is something they are now looking at) - but you can be prosecuted if you put them at risk in leaving them. Personally, I don't think it is as simple as age - it depends on what the child is like, how long you are gone for, whether you have nice neighbours, and whether the child has a way of getting hold of you. I have left my 11 year old for up to half an hour if I am local - she is very sensible and has a mobile phone. My youngest will be lucky if I let her stay in the house alone when she is 16 as she seems to have her head in the clouds most of the time!
  3. There is no law that states children can/cannot be left unattended. It's up to your judgement to decide if they are sensible enough to safely look after themselves. If something does go dreadfully wrong then you may be at risk of being prosecuted for being negligent (or whatever legal term is used).
    At the ages of 13 and 11 it might be worth thinking about preparing them for looking after themselves while you are out. Mine both had door keys from age 11 and were letting themselves in and out without any bother. Give them the skills to be independent!
  4. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    We gave ours house keys when they started high school (20 minutes' walk from home) and that was the start of their independence.

    At 16 our eldest refused to holiday with us, so we left her at home with various contingencies in place and went abroad as usual. Needless to say, there were parties and an anonymous note from someone round the corner about being kept awake by noise from our garden in the wee small hours. The wheelie bin was full of bottles and cans. The following year she sort of learned her lesson, stayed in the house at night, and we came home to find a list of house rules hanging on the wall for her 'guests' to follow - all the same rules she wouldn't follow herself when we were at home. We also found the fridge door held in place by sellotape - we've never had a proper explanation for that.

    It's a necessary pain barrier you have to go through, and you have to make your own judgements. I personally think we got off lightly, and having vinyl plank flooring downstairs instead of carpets was a major plus. I value my holidays and don't want to spend them dragging some mardy **** teenager around who'd rather be somewhere else. Most of the friends she had round the house were known to us and we got on with them, plus I'd taught most of them. If you know their friends there's less chance of your property being messed with.

    Our youngest is completely different and realises that free holidays with Ma and Pa broaden her horizons - she's 20 now and went to France with us at Easter.
  5. There is no law about it.
    Mine are 13 and 10 and I leave them alone now and then when I go shopping.
    But there are rules. Very clear rules. They know my mobile number off by heart. They do not answer the phone at home, unless they see it is me or their Dad. They are not allowed to leave the house before I return. They are to look after one another. There is one trusted neighbour and if anything happens, such as the house sets on fire or one of them falls into a coma, they know the exact procedure of what to do.
    I can leave son on his own in the evenings if I have an appointment, but he is never then left with the responsibilty of looking after his sister, I make sure she goes to a friends.
    You have to let them learn independence and show that you trust them - but the rules must be clear beforehand.
  6. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    It's strange, isn't it, that we worry about leaving young teenagers alone in their own home but don't bat an eyelid about letting them go to school on their own (when they are then free to go somewhere else instead if the fancy takes them) or about letting them go off for the day with friends (into town shopping etc).
    I was left to look after younger siblings when I was still at Primary school, either when my mother was in hospital having the next sibling and my dad was visiting or doing his charitable church work or when my parents were at meetings or shopping together.
    I was emminently capable of the responsibility and can think of may aged 16 years+ who would struggle to cope with the demands that I managed.
  7. When my three were younger, we started to leave them alone in the early evening, whilst we went to the supermarket once a week, once the eldest was about 13 years old. They had all sorts of rules etc in place, and eventually, we started making it our weekly going to the pub time too. Everything was fine. (Ahem...now they are all in their 20s, they have started telling us some of the things they did.... sheeshh!)
  8. Yes, times have changed. I had a half hour walk to school on my own, over fields and backwaters, from infant age.
    We can tend to be overprotective - starting in in small stages can help though. I know that my kids are ok without me, really. And they know who to contact if they have a problem, and they know that it is ok to ring as many times as need be.
    I have to say - they NEVER ring. They manage perfectly well without me. It is more a comfort to me that they know what to do and so far, they have stuck to the rules (as Penny, I may hear some interesting things when they are older....)

  9. JTL

    JTL Occasional commenter

    I cannot remember their ages but our three must have all been young teenagers when we left them for a while one evening. The light fitting in one son's bedroom decided to fall from the ceiling, fusing all the upstairs lights. It really freaked them out but they wisely popped next door to a neighbour who fixed things.
  10. At 11 my daughter travelled to school on 2 service buses each way via a town centre We figured it was OK to occassionaly leave her alone for a few hours from that age. Probably around 16 when she had to cook her evening meal too and 17 left alone overnight. Each child is different though.
  11. katycustard

    katycustard Occasional commenter

    That made me smile CQ. I used to leave my oldest son looking after his two younger sisters. I used to pay him £1.00 for babysitting and my daughters 50p each for 'being good'. I used to be met by 3 children all saying they had been good, no fighting/teasing etc. They all got their money!
    They are grown up now and have never told me any horror stories about what they got up to.
  12. Interesting thread. My son is almost 5, he is allowed to play out all weekend and if he goes to someone's house he has to let us know. (needless to say occassionally this inevitably means we end up with up to 10 kids in our house!) I personally was never at home at the weekends from about the age of 6/7 where we spent most of our time prattling around on the downs behind my parents house. , aged 15 I went on a three week trip to south Africa without my parents. think my parents were fairly lax and will probably mean I will be too.
  13. ljr

    ljr New commenter

    At what age is it ok to leave your children?
    I think that parents should definitely be allowed to leave their children when they get to fifty. [​IMG]
  14. Ditto, but much earlier, I was still in junior school. No extra money for doing so, it was part of being a household and having your chores to do.
    I was way in trouble if I hadn't done them by the time Mum came home.
    And I did my sister's chores as well, as she was younger and it was expected of me to just get things done, and she just did not do them.
  15. kibosh

    kibosh Star commenter

    Can't go into details. But [​IMG]

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