Kids Home Alone

This post is part of a series where I answer questions from my readers. If you have a question that you would like me to answer, please feel free to leave it in the comments below. Other posts answering reader questions can be found by clicking here: Reader Questions.

Megan asked via email:

Do you leave your children home by themselves and if so, what age did you start doing this?

Before I answer this question and let you know what I do, I feel the need to state that leaving children home on their own is a very personal decision and there are many factors that come into when might be the right time to do it for your family. The area in which you live, the personalities of your children and your own emotions will all play a part in this decision and in this post I am simply sharing what we are currently doing.

Leaving Kids Home Alone – My Perspective

Late last year I started letting my eldest son (11 years old) stay home when I took the other children to an after school activity or if I was running errands locally. I probably could have done this a lot earlier in reality. By November he had been walking home from school by himself for a year and had caught a train into the city by himself. He was on his own out in the big wide world, so it didn’t make sense to for me to say that “I can’t leave you alone” when we went out.

My eldest son loved being left on his own and you could see he enjoyed the fact that I trusted him and felt comfortable doing so. He knows my mobile number of by heart and his dad’s mobile is written down for him to easily access if he needed it. He has never needed it. Before I left him for the first time we went over a few things like:

  • Mobile phone numbers and seeking out the neighbours if there was any problems. He was already aware of 000 and what it is used for.
  • The same rules apply to him, when I am not in the house! No TV, no raiding my not so secret chocolate stash etc.
  • Double checked that he was comfortable with being left on his own.
  • He knew how to lock and unlock the front and back doors.

Then a couple of weeks into the start of the new school year of 2010, my nine year old, was literally begging me to let him stay home when we ran his sister to dance classes. His reason for this was pretty compelling – he wanted to do homework. He has a small amount of homework that he needs to do every day and (being completely opposite to his older brother!) as soon as he has had afternoon tea, he set about doing it.

I spent a week thinking about it and could honestly not find any reason for him not to stay home. He is responsible, I am away for only a short time, which he uses to do his homework. My only concern was “What if they fight?”, but to date we haven’t had any episodes of that – well not that I know of at least 🙂 . So now I will leave my 11 and 9 year old home alone, but for my personal comfort level at the moment, I only do it if I will be away less than an hour and I am only a short drive from home.

Leaving Kids Home Alone – The Legal Perspective

According to this Victorian Government website:

Parents are expected to provide their child with food, clothing, a place to live, safety and supervision.
In Victoria it is an offence for a person responsible for a child to leave the child unattended for any longer than is reasonable, without making appropriate arrangements for the child’s supervision and care.

This includes leaving a child at home, or in a car, or anywhere else unattended.

In Victoria there is no set age at which it is legal to leave a child unattended. It depends on the child and the situation.

When deciding whether to charge a person with this offence, authorities must consider each case individually to determine the reasonableness of the circumstances in which the child was left unattended, including the needs of the particular child. The Secretary of the Department of Human Services has to be consulted before a charge can be laid.

From 21 January 2015, the penalty for leaving children unattended is a fine of 25 penalty units or imprisonment for six months or both.

What about you? Have you left your children at home on their own and if so how old were they when you first did it?