Staying Safe In The Home

Home Alone

There is no hard and fast rule, or law, for when a child is ready to be left alone. It will vary a lot from child to child.

The NSPCC recommend that children are not left alone before the age of 12 – this is because whilst many young people will cope at this age if everything is going well, they may struggle to react in an emergency or unexpected situation.

Often it is when children make the move to secondary school that parents decide whether their child is ready to be left home alone for short periods. This needs careful thought on whether you feel confident your child is ready for this step. You know your child best - but it is very important to remember it is your responsibility to never put your child at risk of harm.

Your child is not ready to be left alone even for short periods no matter what their age if:

• They do not understand instructions and cannot do as they are told
• If they cannot use the phone to call for help if needed
• If they are scared about being left
• If they cannot get themselves food and drink safely
• If they cannot cope with an emergency or know who to call.

Dive Deeper

Top Tips

If you feel your child is mature enough to be left alone for short periods you need to make sure they are safe:

  • Ask them first. They may like to feel grown up but some might feel scared and not want to stay home alone.
  • Have rules clear on what they can and cannot do.
  • They should be able to talk through, and remember what they would need to do in unexpected, worrying situations.
  • You should be sure that your child is safe getting themselves food and drink.
  • Make sure they do not have access to any medication, sharp objects such as knives, chemicals, alcohol and drugs and lock them away safely.
  • Tell your child when you will be home. If you are going to be late let them know so that they do not worry.
  • Make sure they know who to contact in an emergency.
  • Tell them not to post details about being home alone on social media.
  • If your older child is looking after a younger child please make sure they are responsible enough to do so.

If you and your child decide that they are ready to be left home alone it is good to prepare and practice.

Other Options

If your child, or you, have any doubts that they are ready then you might need to think about other care available for your child. These are some options you can think about;

  • Family or friends may be able to help.
  • Team up with other parents you know and look after each others children when needed.
  • Talk with your employer to see if there are any changes to working hours possible until your child is ready.
  • Look into local after school, or community sporting / creative clubs
  • Look in to childminders locally - many take older children.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team. 

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