What age can I leave my child at home alone?

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I was having an interesting conversation the other day when the question was posed, ‘at what age can I leave my kids at home by themselves?’

It prompted me to review the law – which in my state of NSW Australia there is no set age although in Queensland it is age 12. It also varies around the world, some states in USA have a law that the minimum age is 8 years while in another state it is 14.

I guess the real question is how independent and responsible are your children? I will leave my youngest two (13 & 9) at home together for half an hour to go pick up my other kids but I wouldn’t leave them for a prolonged length of time without an older sibling or adult around to supervise. I also wouldn’t leave my 9 year old son at home alone yet – much to his disgust!

A key indicator that the child is ok to stay at home alone is the fact that the child feels safe and confident to be left alone. Obviously you wouldn’t leave a child at home under duress.

The maturity and willingness of a child of 10 to be home alone may be higher than a child of 14 – you need to assess each child to determine whether they can be trusted to be sensible if left alone. I assume that the discretion to know whether your child is mature enough to be home alone is the reason our state has no strict law on age eligibility.

In order to be left home alone some of the key skills children must have are:

  1. be able to follow instructions you have left
  2. be able to use a phone to call you if needed
  3. recall their address if they have to contact emergency services
  4. know when it is necessary to call for help
  5. know to not do any dangerous things (eg playing with fire) when home alone.

The other issue related to this whole grey area of whether a child is responsible enough to be home without adults is whether there are younger children to be supervised and whether the older child is capable of looking after those kids.

So in answer to the question I posed – there is no definitive answer, just the parent’s discretion to ensure their kids are safe.

(Photo courtesy of photostock, freedigitalphotos.net)

EXCHANGE

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We are about to take a huge leap of faith and entrust our sixteen year old daughter to a family on the other side of the world for a few weeks. Whilst on a cultural school trip to China last year our daughter met a girl from Spain and they became firm friends, organizing a private exchange to take place this year. Thankfully this girl speaks fluent English, however the same can’t be said for her parents.

We have skyped the family to ‘meet’ them, however it was a slow and interesting process having the Spanish daughter translate everything we said to them and then translate their response in return. 

As much as we are a little nervous about sending our daughter to Spain, we actually host the Spanish girl first, so her family is taking an even bigger leap of faith entrusting us with their daughter first. Our plan is to show her the sights of Sydney and give her a glimpse of our life in Australia. I’m not sure how she will cope being thrust into our family, as with four children, our household can be loud and raucous at times, whilst she is an only child that is used to peace and quiet.

Our daughter will miss a few weeks of school whilst in Spain, but I believe she will learn life skills and have cultural experiences that will far outweigh the lessons she will miss. It is such an amazing opportunity for her to be welcomed into another family and be shown how others in this world live. I’m interested to see if it changes her outlook on life and influences her in anyway when planning her future.

So next week, we will meet our new little Spanish friend at the airport with banners, balloons and open arms and I will mumble the only real statement I can think of in Spanish ‘Mi casa es su casa’ (my home is your home) and hope that she feels at home with our family!

 

 

(Picture courtesy of pinkblue, freedigitialphotos.net)