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.
If you feel your child is mature enough to be left alone for short periods you need to make sure they are safe:
If you and your child decide that they are ready to be left home alone it is good to prepare and practice.
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;
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.