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Is It Ever Safe To Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

publication date: Jul 20, 2016
author/source: Anne Coates

home aloneThe NSPCC is urging parents to think carefully before leaving their children home alone during the summer holidays. It may be very tempting to leave children while you pop to the shop but you never know what may happen, circumstances over which you have no control. If you had an accident and were not conscious, would anyone know your children are home alone? It may sound farfetched but these things do happen.

So when can you feel safe leaving children alone at home?

The law does not give a minimum age for leaving children alone at home but it’s against the law if it puts them at risk. Children mature at different ages – some will understand about not opening front doors or answering the phone at an early age, some older children will not grasp the implications. You just cannot make assumptions and parents need to know how their children feel about being at home without an adult present. 

The NSPCC give this advice on leaving a child at home

  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
  • Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time
  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
  • Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone
  • A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age
  • If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling
  • When leaving a younger child with an older sibling think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out – would they both be safe?

If you are leaving older children at home alone you should make sure:

  • There is a neighbour of family friend they can call if they need someone quickly
  • They have contact numbers for parents
  • They understand what they can and cannot do – for instance you wouldn't want a houseful of their friends wreaking havoc
  • There are meals they can prepare/eat without having to cook. 

Although some children thrive on being given a measure of independence and trust, others are less confident and you should always take this into account.