Should i Leave my Children on their own

As every parent knows, particularly if you work, deciding when to allow your children to stay home alone is a soul searching, crucifying tightrope walk between necessity and permitting your children to grow and explore their boundaries.

The law in the UK is very ambiguous in that there is no lower age limit for leaving your children on their own, which allows many careless parents to leave their babies and toddlers unattended while they pursue their own interests. However, while there is no lower limit, the authorities take a dim view of absent parents, especially of younger children, and any parent who persistently leaves their children home alone is liable to come under the scrutiny of those authorities.

It goes without saying that each and every child is different. Some seem to be perennial innocents with little or no idea of how to do anything for themselves, no matter how much time, patience and encouragement you have invested in altering the status quo. Others seem to be wise far beyond their years and can even sometimes leave you feeling slightly ignorant and foolish when you try to explain something to them, only to be told “Mum, I know!” Your rule of thumb needs to be how comfortable your child is at the prospect of staying home alone, combined with how mature and sensible they are for their age. Obviously if your child appears distressed at the mere mention of being left at home while you “pop out”, the time is wrong and the subject should be dropped for a period of months or longer, giving your child some more “growing room”. Likewise, if you really are unsure that your child is ready and capable of being sensible whilst left on their own, the time is not right.

So somehow you have to establish some kind of measuring stick and gradually relinquish control so that your children become confident at the prospect of being in the house alone and you, in turn, do not have your heart in your mouth every time you walk out of that door.

When your children are old and sensible enough to be trusted to carry out chores without your having to be trailing behind them; when you ask them to do something and know that they will comply, you can feel comfortable that there is a common basis of trust and respect on both sides. Your children need to be able to take on board advice and instructions with regard to answering the door in your absence, answering the telephone, using household appliances and understand the steps that they should follow in any emergency. They should also be confident in using a telephone, land line or mobile, so that both they and you know there is a line of communication between you at all times.

A good way of introducing the practice of leaving your children to their own devices is to pop out for short periods of time – perhaps just to the corner shop or to the post office, when you know that the maximum time you are likely to be is something around ten to twenty minutes. It would be difficult (or at least you hope) for your children to get into too much mischief in that time span.

Once you have done this over a period of time, you will begin to feel comfortable with the idea of leaving your children in the house alone and they will feel confident at being by themselves. These short absences are also an extremely good means of highlighting any aspects that you may have failed to take into account, giving you the opportunity to smooth out any shortcomings in the arrangements, as well as to assess the ability of your children to deal satisfactorily with being left alone.

Your children will quickly become accustomed to this new freedom and, indeed, you will soon find that they become increasingly reluctant to leave whatever they are involved in for the dubious pleasure of going to the supermarket with you. They will also come to revel in the feeling of responsibility and maturity that being home alone gives them; all part of the growing up process through which you have to guide them with a light hand and a careful eye.