Is it ever acceptable to leave a child home alone?

A good few years ago I remember reading a post about a mother who got a criminal record for leaving her six year old child at home alone for 45 minutes.

The varying opinions from parents about whether or not it’s acceptable to leave children home alone got me thinking about how I felt about it.

The first lady in the article openly admits that she leaves her children home alone. The first time she did so, her daughter was just three months old and she left her asleep in the pram in the garden whilst she popped out to do the weekly food shop. She even admits that she didn’t rush around the shop. She actually took her time. When she returned home she found her baby still fast asleep.

Thankfully all worked out well for her, but I was astonished to read that this lady continued to do the same thing with each of her children, leaving them alone and unattended whilst she ‘popped out’.

The thought makes me nervous. If I need to pop to the shops or pay for petrol, I always get the girls to come with me. You may think I’m mad to unbuckle their seat belts and walk them across as a petrol station forecourt, but I’d rather have them with me, than risk leaving them alone in the car. If anything happened, I’d never be able to forgive myself.

My husband and I have always been lucky in that we juggle childcare between ourselves. When I’m working my husband will do the school run and vice versa. During the holidays my husband will stay with our girls whilst I work, and again I will do the same when he works.

I realise that not everybody has this luxury, but in my opinion you should never leave children alone unattended.

After doing some research online I found out that there is no minimum age at which children in the UK can be left on their own, nor do laws specify how old someone needs to be to babysit. However, if the babysitter is under 16, then the parent remains legally responsible for the child’s safety (source).

In addition to this the law simply says that you shouldn’t leave a child alone if they’ll be at risk (source).

I’m absolutely amazed that no law exists when it comes to this! I’m not sure how old my girls will be when I first leave them on their own, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be for a very long time!

What do you think? How old are your children and would you, or have you, ever left them home alone?

24 thoughts on “Is it ever acceptable to leave a child home alone?

  1. It is crazy there are no laws about leaving kids home alone….
    I have just started leaving my 14 year old home alone. When I do it’s for about half an hour at the most. I wouldn’t dream of leaving my 9 year old alone or even with her sister. I dread to think what could happen x

  2. I’m not opposed to someone leaving a baby asleep in the home while they putter around their yard/garden. However, it’s absolutely irresponsible to leave a 3 month home alone in a stroller while they shop. Take the stroller with you to the store if you can’t find someone to watch them. I think kids should only be left alone when they meet the following criteria:
    -Can call 911 in an emergency and accurately give info about their location
    -Can cook/make their own meal without attending
    -Can take a bath without you in the residence

    If your child can’t do those three things without you in the home, then they are in danger if you leave them alone. Kids rarely make rational, well-thought out decisions! #ThatFridayLinky

  3. I think that it all depends on the child, and the only person who can determine whether or not their child is ready is the parent. I have 4 kids, ages 9, 8, 5, and 2. I’ve never left the younger 2 alone, but I leave the older 2 alone every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with it at all. They are responsible girls. They know what to do if there’s an emergency. I also leave them in the car sometimes if I have to run into a store and it’s not too hot out. And honestly, people overestimate the chances that an emergency can happen by a lot. The odds that your child will be harmed while sitting in the car alone are much smaller than the odds that your child will be hit by a car while walking across the parking lot with you. We do have a law in my state about minimum age, but it’s confusing. It’s part of the fire code, and it says that children under 8 can’t be left alone in an enclosure. But there is no law about how old a child must be to be left alone if they are outside. I actually think that the government should just stay out of it and let parents decide what’s best for their kids. If you don’t think that your child is ready to stay home alone, don’t leave them alone. But if you do, you certainly know the child’s abilities a lot better than the government does. It’s true that there are some neglectful parents who make poor decisions on behalf of their children, but the vast majority are good parents who are just doing their best, and want what’s best for their kids. #ThatFridayLinky

  4. On one hand it’s shocking that there are no real laws or guidelines but on the other hand, I can see how it would be hard to set at specific age because maturity etc varies so much between children. Personally I have four children and they are now 9, 11, 17 and 19. I think my eldest two would have been 14/15 before I left them home alone and even then it would only be for 10/15 minutes while I nipped to the village shop say. Never for any real length of time. I wouldn’t dream of leaving my youngest two at 9 and 11 home alone for any amount of time yet. I just can’t help but think of the hundred things that could go wrong – chances are they wouldn’t – but I’m not willing to take that risk. Is it really such a hardship to take your kids with you when you run an errand? Of course it isn’t!

  5. There’s no law so that no one can be blamed. If they were to say 16 and something happened, then the government would be accountable. I’ve sat at many child in need meetings and it all depends of the capabilities of each child and also the circumstances. I’ve also sat at a CIN meeting where the mother was judged for letting her 14 yr old go across the road to the park and walk the family dog and something unpleasant happened. I was surprised because at 14 I was out and about everywhere. So everybody is scared of blame. At the end of the day we make sensible decisions. Leaving a 3 month yr old while you go and shop, outside of the house is not, in my opinion. #ThatFridayLinky

  6. The thought of leaving my three year old downstairs alone is sometimes enough to invite him upstairs with me, let alone leaving him alone while i go out! I don’t know what age is good for this, but right now i’d say i think about 10? 11? You could pop to the shops when they’re that age i reckon…

  7. Easiest question ever for me. No, I wouldn’t leave my son at home alone. Not now and no way in the near future. Or even in the future full stop. I probably wouldn’t even when he’s in his teens, but that’s because I’m a control freak and would be worried I’d come home and he’s left the tap running and flooded the house or something! #thatfridaylinky

  8. I’m amazed there is no legal age limit on this. I would certainly never leave a baby or young child alone. As they get older I think it depends on the capabilities of the child.
    Thought provoking post 🙂
    Thatfridaylinky

  9. I’m the same as you, I would never leave any of my children anywhere alone. My husband works from home so it does make life easier. If my youngest is asleep I can do the school run without needing to wake her as he is here. It helps so much!

  10. I can’t believe that there is no minimum age to be left home alone! That’s crazy! My eldest is 13 and often stays at home on his own these days, but never of an evening and absolutely NEVER over night! I think everyone is different but for me, there is no way I would be leaving any of my children at home alone, even for an hour, until they are at high school. #thatfridaylinky

  11. Oh this is baaaad, who would leave their child in a garden asleep while they do the food shop!
    I thought I was mad because I won’t even go to my neighbours front door which is half a metre from my front door, when my kids are in bed. I worry someone could still go past me into the house!

    Personally, mine come with me wherever I have to go if I’m alone with them-I’d be raging if my husband ever left them to do anything.

    An ex friend of mine went to work one Sunday, leaving her kids at home with her boyfriend, and he took their youngest who was 3 to the shop 10 mins down the road, leaving their nearly 6 year old at home playing computer. He would’ve been alone for the best part of 25 minutes, and I just couldn’t cope even thinking of it-she didn’t seem too fussed!

    #ThatFridayLinky

  12. I’m always amazed when I read about people leaving their children alone. My children come with me everywhere unless there is someone to look after them. I wouldn’t ever leave them to fend for themselves. I always thought that there was a law for kids being home alone and babysitting – this is a crazy world! #ThatFridayLinky

  13. I think it all depends on the maturity of the child as to when you leave them home alone. With my teenager I think he was maybe nine or ten when we left him for the first time…but it was with very strict instructions not to answer the phone or open the door and we were only away a short while. He’s always been quite responsible though. But as for leaving a baby…no, no, no.
    Paying for petrol is a tough one when you have a baby, I’m glad more places have pay-at-the-pump. I think I used to just make sure I topped up when I was with my husband or older son, or when I didn’t have the baby with me. If he was asleep and it was quiet I sometimes risked it though, but it made me really anxious!
    #ThatFridayLinky

  14. This seems crazy. How can there not be a law?! I’ve been chatting to neighbours outside of the front door while Little Man sleeps upstairs and I feel guilty because I’m not physically in the house with him! I could never leave him alone, this much is certain. I don’t understand how people can. #ThatFridayLinky

  15. I agree that it makes sense to have an age in law. The trouble is, it also depends on the child. There are some 12 year olds who would be absolutely fine and some 16 year olds I wouldn’t want to take my eyes off for a second. As soon as there is an age in law, some people will leave children unattended at that age whether they are ready for it or not. #ThatFridayLinky

  16. As tempting as it may be, and as capable as I think they are, I would be a wreck to leave my girls home alone. Heck, we haven’t had a date in 10 years! I suppose when Big is old enough to ‘baby-sit’ that will be a different story. I started that at 12. So many variables to think through. #ThatFridayLinky xoxo

  17. It does seem just crazy that there is no minimum age for a child being left alone & for a babysitter. I’m off to see what the law is in Ireland now. Common sense has to tell you leaving a 3 month old alone while you tip off to the shops is madness. #ThatFridayLinky

  18. everything else seems so over regulated, I’ll join the voices saying this really surprises me. I’ll have to look it up and see if we have a law over here. I think that the amount of time and the individual kid make a difference, some are going to be more mature than others. That being said, I was nervous yesterday leaving the 17 yr old alone with the 6 year old for 3 hours. #thatfridaylinky

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