You may be surprised to learn that there is no legal age requirement to leave your child home alone, although child protection experts state that ‘it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.’
Therefore this milestone is different for every child and it is incredibly important for parents to evaluate their child’s readiness before leaving them unattended.
When evaluating whether it is safe to leave your child home alone you will need to consider your child’s maturity level and problem-solving skills. How do you think they will cope alone and do you trust them to behave responsibly?
You should also discuss their feelings about being left on their own. If they feel worried or scared about the ideas then it is best to wait until they are a little older and arrange childcare instead. You know your child best, so always trust your instincts when making these important decisions.
Preparing for the first time…
Talk about emergency situations and make sure that your child knows exactly what to do if he encounters a stranger at the door or a fire in the kitchen. You obviously don’t want to scare your child, but it is important to make them aware of possible scenarios and how to handle them safely.
When leaving your child alone it is important to give them more than one emergency contact number, in case they cannot reach you. Let your child know what time you’ll be back and if possible set a time that you will call to check they are ok.
Check that your child is able to safely prepare food and drink on their own. Can they use your kitchen appliances confidently while you are away? If this is a concern then you can always prepare their meals or snacks in advance.
Discuss online safety
Finally it is important to discuss online safety with your child if they plan to use the interest while you’re out. Explain that they must not mention to anyone online that they are home alone, not even their friends, and to never give anyone their address or any other personal details.