As a parent, you may be surprised to learn that the guidelines for leaving child home alone are rather vague. Most of us would not leave a child home alone until they at least reach double figures. I can’t imagine a time just yet when I would leave my 9-year-old home alone. Don’t get me wrong she is regularly left with her teenage siblings, who are 19 and 15 but I wouldn’t leave her unsupervised. Yet the law isn’t clear on teenagers being left overnight and doesn’t offer the answers! In the past, I have been quite a free-range parent allowing Dylan to attend football derby games that friends don’t allow their sons to attend unsupervised.
However my 15-year-old has just asked to stay home alone overnight and we had to have a discussion!
The law itself is weak in this area although there are guidelines for leaving child home alone. The Gov UK Website just states: The law doesn’t say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but it’s an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.
This is not the most helpful of answers!
The NSPCC have interpreted the guidelines for leaving a child home alone as:
- children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
- children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight
- babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
However, that is not the law which probably surprises many parents. As a parent of teenagers, I would like much clearer laws that I can quote to my teens!
Why I am even thinking about the guidelines for leaving child home alone?
This summer Dylan is 15 and half, he will be heading into year 11 in September and is a pretty smart and good kid. We have been invited to a family party that is for adults only and my first thought when the invite landed was ‘whoop a night out and away’. Chloe (19) will be home from university and will be in charge and look after them all. Chloe promptly text us to say that she had been invited to the party! She is 19 so I should have expected it but I was like – oh yeh you are an adult!
I quickly arranged overnight childcare at the grandparents for Erin and Dylan, got it into the grandparents diary as they get booked up! Except Dylan dropped the bomb of asking why he can’t stay home alone overnight.
Chloe only stayed at home alone overnight aged 18 because she never wanted to previously. She would arrange to stay with friends if we went anywhere or was happy sleeping at her grandparents. In fact last summer we left her with the dog at home for a week and she was constantly texting as the dog was being a pain or she didn’t know what to have for dinner, or there was a noise she didn’t like.
Dylan wants to stay home and I know that he wouldn’t tell friends he was home alone, he wouldn’t invite people over (he isn’t the most sociable of teenagers) and he wouldn’t trash the place. He is pretty handy in the kitchen, very responsible with the dog and would probably spend the evening in his Xbox like most other evenings! He would then go to bed and probably wouldn’t wake until we got home at midday.
But he is only 15!
I try to parent responsibly but give my teenagers quite a bit of freedom. It has worked so far with neither doing anything that has concerned me too much. I enjoy my teenagers and love this stage of parenting and this made me question whether I should leave my 15 year old home alone overnight.
I mentioned it to my parents who said no chance!! I discussed Dylan’s request with Lee and he wasn’t sure. It’s not that he doesn’t trust Dyl more that he is an assistant headteacher and recognises what can go wrong! We chatted it over and decided that no he cannot stay home alone at 15. We are going by the NSPCC guidelines for leaving child home alone and said not until he is 16. That at least gives us another six months and seeing as I’m not sure when we will have another party that calls for the three of us to be out overnight and Dyl home alone I think we have dodged the bullet!
Dyl has taken it in his stride. He thinks it is unfair – standard teenage response but he respects that we discussed it. We have negotiated with him and suggested that his uncle who is 22 comes and stays the night with him. They can order a pizza and play X Box. He doesn’t have to go to his grandparents but equally, he won’t be left home alone!
I’d love to know what age you would leave a teenager home alone overnight? Have we made the right decision do you think?