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At what age do you let your children stay home alone?

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#1 EBKatie

Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:43 AM

In Antonia Kidman's column she asks "when is it okay for children to venture out or be left at home alone?"

We all struggle to make a judgement call on this. What do you think?

At what age do you let your children stay home alone? Or walk to school by themselves? Or babysit their younger siblings? And what responsibilities should you never put on their shoulders?

#2 pp67

Posted 27 March 2012 - 10:22 AM

IMPO... No ADULT responsiblities should be placed on any child's shoulders!!

Hence the terms Adult and Child... the child does not have the Adult maturity to cope with Adult stuff/responsibilities  (mind you... some Adults don't either  tongue.gif )

#3 smudgiekiss

Posted 27 March 2012 - 10:26 AM

I am struggling with the walk to school by themselves topic at the moment.

I wish I had an answer.

#4 Rachaelxxx

Posted 27 March 2012 - 11:52 AM

I am really struggling with letting go myself at the moment.  My oldest is 10 and my youngest is 4 and I feel like I need to be giving my 10 year old a bit more freedom, ride her bike to a friends house, walk to the milk bar, that sort of thing, but we live in a busy neighbour and it's a pretty busy street we live on, so I'm just not ready yet.

But my problem is I've always said when she start high school, but I need to start taking baby steps between now and then, I can't have her never leaving my side, to all of a sudden, letting her wander the streets.

I guess at the end of the day, I'm not ready yet and she isn't pushing me to give her more freedom, so I can relax a bit.

#5 wickle pickle

Posted 27 March 2012 - 12:02 PM

This is a really difficult topic and as much as I WANT to give my kids more independence, I feel sick to the stomach and nervous the whole time when I do.

I wonder what happened to 'safety houses' and 'neighbourhood watch'- these used to exist but I don't see them anymore. Maybe I would feel safer if I knew the whole community was looking out for my kids...

#6 mummyofour

Posted 27 March 2012 - 12:03 PM

Yesterday I let my almost 12 yo and almost 9yo walk to the localish (next suburb across) to pick up something from the supermarket for me.  DS took my phone with him just in case, and they had the family dog with them.  I"ve actually found that when I give my older kids that little bit more responsibility they can accept it and act their age IYKWIM.  When I'm around they can act like the kids that they still are.

My almost 12yo also walks himself to and from school and is at home by himself for an hour or so two afternoons a week.  The younger children are in afterschool care but he comes home, lets himself in, lets the dog in and usually watched tv (and doesn't do homework but that's another issue !!) I wouldn't put much more responsibility on him than that and I certainly wouldn't leave him at home with the younger kids to look after but he is capable of looking after himself.  He knows what to do should something happen like a fire (go to the neighbours), knows not to answer the door or the phone (or listen and if it's me or his Dad he's allowed to pick up) etc so there are rules and he knows what they are.

It will be interesting to see next year if I think DD1 and DS will be capable of being in the same house by themselves and not killing each other while I am not around as she will be the same as next year as DS was when we let him stay at home.  She would be fine by herself I think but they might either kill each other or destroy the house - by that's still a year away and a lot can change in a year...

#7 Isolabella

Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:46 PM

My eldest is only 6, but already I am easing off.

I park across the road from school. Let DS1 out and watch as he walks the 50m up to the school crossing (with crossing guard), cross the road and then takes himself the 100m back into the school.

I anticipate that by 10yrs he will be going to the local shops by himself.

Like PP he will be going off to private school and will need to catch public transport himself so there needs to be a 'relaxing' of care.

#8 penny_lane

Posted 28 March 2012 - 06:11 AM

QUOTE (pp67 @ 27/03/2012, 11:22 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
IMPO... No ADULT responsiblities should be placed on any child's shoulders!!

Hence the terms Adult and Child... the child does not have the Adult maturity to cope with Adult stuff/responsibilities  (mind you... some Adults don't either  tongue.gif )

How are they supposed to learn to cope with 'adult stuff' if they've never experienced it?

You do need to gradually introduce adult responsibilities as children become capable of them. That's the only way they learn how to manage them, because you don't suddenly become a mature, responsible person upon reaching adulthood.

#9 my serenity

Posted 28 March 2012 - 06:28 AM

by 10 and 12 the kids were going to the local westfield 10 mins walk away , getting bread/fruit from a local markets and being left at home for up to an hour at a time. They are resposible kids and now as teenagers they are confident and not worries or frightened to do these things.
I dont think they were too young. They always had a mobile on them when out, they new what to do if something bothered them and they also had neighbours to help as we talk to all our neighbours if I wasnt home. Its all aboiut teaching them the life skills they need original.gif

#10 Elf Ianthe

Posted 28 March 2012 - 09:47 AM

My eldest I started leaving for brief periods when he was 12. My second son is 11 and has occasionally stayed home alone. They are both allowed to ride bikes to friend's houses without me. My 9yo hasn't been left alone but has been left with his older brothers.

My 11yo, 9yo and 7yo all walk to school together.

I was always really nervous the first few times but less so as time goes on. The reality is that I think the benefits of their growing independence outweighs any risks there may be. I can do "worst case scenario" but how likely is it really that something will happen to them?

#11 BadCat

Posted 28 March 2012 - 11:06 AM

Exactly Ianthe.

I can't keep my kids chained to my side against the tiny chance that someone may wish to harm them.

My two started walking to school alone when they were maybe 9 and 7.  It's a short walk and the area isn't busy.  That never stopped me from worrying though.

They started staying home alone for brief periods from around 10.  And yes, I worried.  Still do.

But I decided a long time ago that I could not afford to let my worry interfere with their growing up.

#12 klbseb

Posted 28 March 2012 - 11:55 AM

Up until today, my 12 year old was home alone for an hour in the morning and about two in the afternoon.  However, after an incident this morning with someone driving dangerously towards her, and "stalking" behaviour towards her and being concerned with her safety - this has now changed.

We have made arrangements with her school (private) for her to be allowed to go to BSC and ASC (when the High School Library closes) until I get there about 30 minutes later.  This will continue until the end of term (Thursday next week) or until the Police can provide me with confirmation that this idiot has been warned/charged or whatever and that her safety is guaranteed.

We'll now start with smaller things and work up to her catching the bus to and from school again next term.

#13 Copper and May

Posted 28 March 2012 - 12:04 PM

I know it is a different era now, but I didn't have any choice, but to go to high school at 11 (along with heaps of other kids) on the public bus and then walk 2 miles through a big regional city to get to school and came home the same way. I think this matures kids big-time to have some responsibility and if they are never let do these things - how will they learn.

#14 cesca

Posted 29 March 2012 - 10:17 AM

My 9 year old stays home for short periods at a time by himself.  The longest is when I take his sister to her swimming lessons - we're away for about 30 minutes.  The pool is across the road, so about 100 metres from our house, so I'm confident that if there's any problems he could come over.

I'm also fine with the two of them (aged 9 and 8) going to the local corner shops or playground by themselves.  DS has walked home from school with a group of friends occasionally, but I'm not that keen as there are some busy roads to cross.

It's all gradual.

#15 The Cat's Me-Wow

Posted 29 March 2012 - 10:38 AM

My daughter is 12, and I have an almost 3 year old son, and a 10 month old son.

My husband and I went shopping for a TV last week and left my daughter home alone. I might have done it a little earlier, but she is a worrier, and never wanted to stay home alone before. This time, it was simply a case of staying home and watching TV being a more attractive option than going TV shopping with Mum, Dad and 2 babies.

This sort of decision is such a personal one to make. An age guideline can be helpful, but it comes down to your risk assessment, your child's maturity level, how many (if any) siblings they will be left with and the dynamics between them. In some cases, an 11 year old on their own might be less of a concern, than an 'easily-led-into-trouble' 12 year old with a ratbag 10 year old, IYKWIM.

Edited sleep-deprivation-induced poor grammar.

Edited by The Cat's Me-Wow, 29 March 2012 - 10:40 AM.

#16 moral fibre

Posted 29 March 2012 - 12:55 PM

I have let my 4 year old daughter ride her bike when we go to the park. She goes to the next corner and waits, but invariably goes around the next corner and out of my view. The first time she did this, I was adamant about being able to see her. The second time, I reminded her that she needs to be careful of pedestrians on the footpath and cars coming out of driveways. Now, I let her ride ahead and happily for both of us, it is not a problem.

You can sense her self-confidence and freedom, but she always comes back to look where I am (and her 2 year old sister).

I leave them alone in the house whilst I go to the garden. They always know where I am and that they are not alone. After ten minutes or so, there is usually a check from one of them to ascertain where I am, then they return to their play.

When would I leave them alone at home? I think 10 years old is a pretty good benchmark. A child usually has a sense of self-confidence by then - as long as they know the rules of fire, phone calls, etc.

As for going to school - we all walked to school in my day - nearly every kid and we were aware of 'stranger-danger'. There is something important being lost by kids being dropped off at school and not having time to themselves and being able to talk to their friends before class starts. It is integral to warming up for the day.

I rode to school at 12 and along some busy roads. I think I was knocked off my bike once, but my brother hit the asphalt two or three times. We knew the road rules and it was purely accidental that anything happened. You can't guard against accidents, even in the home.

#17 andieinvic

Posted 29 March 2012 - 06:15 PM

This is one for us at the moment, dd1 is 9yo and has been asking to stay home while I pick dd2 up from after school activities.  I am starting to let her, she calls me every five minutes to chat rolleyes.gif , which is fine with me.  Last week it was a good 25 minutes she was home and she was quite happy.  We live in a cul-de-sak with 8 houses and know all the neighbours, so I feel pretty ok about her being at home, anyone in the court who doesn't live there sticks out like a sore thumb.  I wouldn't leave it any longer than half an hour though.

We've just been looking at high schools and I do wonder if she will be ok to catch a public bus to and from as dh and I both work.  It's more the coming home to an empty house that worries me I think, but again, it's great having neigbours that know us and vice versa.

I suspect dd2 will be 35 before I can leave her home for any space of time whatsover (just a bit of a different personality type) happy.gif

#18 fimamala

Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:04 PM

My kids are 8 (Grade 3) & 9 (Grade 4) and we live 150m from the local shops and school is a 15 minutes walk. At age 7 both kids would walk to the shops on a saturday and sunday to buy the papers, and mid last year started walking to school by themselves ( with us observing them from afar for a couple of weeks to ensure they observed road rules). They have to cross a railway crossing and one street  to get to the shops and 4 more streets to get to school. We have walked to the shops, Kinder and school almost eveyday since we moved to this house 7 years ago. I have also left them at home for up to an hour by themselves since they were 7 years old. Too many people baby their kids, my kids are sensible and confident kids. They are street smart and from my secret observation they have good road sense. Often I get parents of 10 to 12 year old kids say that they saw my kids  at the shops street  on weekends without me and they express their concern, I just laugh and say they are responisble and need to have independence. I am very active at our school and many kids who know me and my kids have said they wished they parents would let them do more by themselves. unwrapp the bubble wrap people let them free!!

#19 Green Gummy Bear

Posted 22 April 2012 - 03:07 PM

Tough one.  My eldest is 8, and whilst I trust her to be responsible, school is too far for her to walk, as is the shops, so she doesn't really get the opportunity to go anywhere by herself.  She is too young to leave home alone, and given that she is 8 years older than her youngest sibling, I don't anticipate her being able to look after her siblings for another 8 years or so.

#20 Propaganda

Posted 22 April 2012 - 05:44 PM

roughly 12.

depending on the individual child of course but 12 sounds about an age where you can go do your grocery shopping while your kid entertains itself at home

#21 Sif

Posted 22 April 2012 - 06:06 PM

My two eldest boys have been going out and taking public transport (to and from school for a while, until we moved closer, now just for occasional errands) since they were nine and seven. I have no issues with letting them go to the park or run errands to the corner shop, or the local shopping centre. Yet, neither of them have been left alone at home yet.

I'm pretty sure I could trust either of them alone at home (they're now almost 11 and 13), but I have to admit the idea of them being home alone TOGETHER makes me nervous because they're more like to conjour up some sort of idiocy or get into a fight over something.

I will start leaving them home (probably one at a time at first) for short periods of time in the next few months, though because I do want them to develop some confidence while they're still young enough not to believe they're completely invincible.

Maturity and circumstance are both key in deciding when is best for your individual child.

#22 kerilyntaryn

Posted 28 April 2012 - 01:39 AM

I was just talking to Mission Australia  about this as my son is 11 and unable to go to school Mon/Tues and we were trying to work out our work options and care options - we were wondering the age plus next year he'll be in high school and wont have afterschool care.

They werent sure so called child safety and they said 12 and we also asked about sibling supervision as my older son is 15 and they said - they have to be 18 to be able to supervise

I was just talking to Mission Australia today about this as my son is 11 and unable to go to school Mon/Tues and we were trying to work out our work options and care options - we were wondering the age plus next year he'll be in high school and wont have afterschool care.

They werent sure so called child safety and they said 12 and we also asked about sibling supervision as my older son is 15 and they said - they have to be 18 to be able to supervise

Reply from Child Safety

Thank you for your email regarding the age of children that can be left alone at home.

Under the Criminal Code Act children under the age of 12 cannot be left alone at home without supervison.

If you have any concerns or enquiry please contact your local Child Safety Service Centre.

Yours sincerely

Administration Officer
Enquiries Unit
Dept of Communities (Child Safety)
Ph : 3224 8045

We also asked Child safety about sibling supervision as my older son is 15 and they said - they have to be 18 to be able to supervise

#23 Imaginary friend

Posted 29 April 2012 - 01:15 PM

Thats not strictly correct though - as has been posted on this forum before, children cannot be left alone for an unreasonable time without reasonable supervision - words to that effect.

this of course is so open to interpretation - I think most people would consider leaving a mature 11 year old alone for 10 minutes would be reasonable - a 2 year old for an hour obviously not.

You dont suddenly jump from being 11 and not allowed at home alone for 10 minutes to 12 and allowed home alone all day.

Likewise with supervising - a straight out not until 18 does not make sense - a 17 year old looking after a baby or younger child for a little while would be reasonable supervision.

(and that's without considering situations like what if the 17 year old is the baby's mother - should she never be unsupervised with her own child - that would be very silly interpretation of the law)

#24 inspirational

Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:14 PM

QUOTE (penny_lane @ 28/03/2012, 06:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
How are they supposed to learn to cope with 'adult stuff' if they've never experienced it?

You do need to gradually introduce adult responsibilities as children become capable of them. That's the only way they learn how to manage them, because you don't suddenly become a mature, responsible person upon reaching adulthood.

Hi, I do agree with you here and once you know your teen can handle the responsibility it is our responsibility as parents to also let them experience and enjoy their teen years by sharing the responsibilities and not just expecting our children and teens to take over our responsibilities as parents. Too often I see parents handing on too much responsibility to their children and teens putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on them to grow up quickly.

#25 steppy

Posted 30 April 2012 - 04:00 PM

For us it was when they could no longer go to after school care. After that we had to trust them to come home and not burn the place down. So they were alone about 3 hours. The first school holidays after that, they learned to be home alone all day - they had to be there to answer the phone when we called and we'd check on them twice a day. It worked out okay.

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