How young is too young to leave your child home alone? Until they become adults, children are the legal responsibility of their parents. So if there is any doubt in your mind about leaving your child home alone, then don’t do it. But if your child is complaining about having to join you for that rush to the shop for milk or if you are wanting to go out for a pre-dawn jog, here are some factors to consider when making the decision about whether to leave your child at home alone or not:
- Children will usually let you know if they want to stay home alone
- If they are nervous to be by themselves, then it’s too early
- Do they know your contact numbers and a friend or family member’s number?
- Do they know not to answer the phone or door?
- Have you worked out a signal so that they know when you are ringing home?
- Have you outlined the rules surrounding dangerous activities such as cooking and swimming?
- Does your child know exactly what to do in an emergency?
- If they get frightened of any talk of fire or break-ins, then they are not ready
- It’s a huge responsibility to leave older children to look after very young kids, so think twice before giving them that burden
- Build up very slowly, starting with leaving them for only 5 minutes
- Try to come back exactly when you say you will, but warn them about unforeseen circumstances such as bad traffic or car accidents
- If they get anxious when you talk of unforeseen circumstances, then they are not ready
It’s clear from this list that there’s a lot to think about. Although we want to limit the amount we mollycoddle our kids, accidents, break-ins, drownings and fires happen all too often, so thinking very carefully about when it’s time to leave your children at home alone is appropriate.