It’s not something I have to think about at the moment because I’m not quite stupid enough to leave Zach home alone at the age of two and a half. I mean, he would turn the hob on (because he’s darn tall enough to attempt it now), try and put toast in the toaster (after dragging something over to it to help him get up there), or kill the fish through overfeeding (after dragging something over to the tank to help him open it). However it has been revealed this week that one parent is arrested every day on suspicion of leaving one or more children home alone. According to the report, cases involved children aged from just a few weeks to 14 years old. Here lies the problem; there is no law that determines an age at which a child can be left alone.
Obviously this is not a problem regarding young children. Quite simply, do not leave them alone! No matter how responsible you think your eight year old may be; they aren’t responsible enough, and no matter how you may be thinking that the corner shop is two doors down and the baby is sleeping, do not leave them. They may wake up, they may cry, they may choke on their crying and something terrible may happen. I have experience of that. I was not left home alone, my mum was upstairs bathing my sister and I was downstairs in the hallway asleep in my pram. Only I woke up and I was unhappy so I cried and cried and my poor mum had one child crying their eyes out and one she had to safely remove from the bath (my sister would have been about four). What happened next was that I got myself into such a state that I stopped breathing and I very nearly died. Thankfully, I am here to tell the story even if I don’t remember it! So, there lies my point, I was not home alone, simply downstairs and something terrible nearly happened.
However, what age is acceptable to leave a child alone? My Nephew gets home from school to an empty house and mostly goes up to his bedroom, puts the XBox on and sits there until my sister comes home. He’s 12. Is that old enough? Is it too young? I have a feeling you are saying that’s old enough to be left at home for a few hours, but is it really? What about the safety aspect of it? I’ll tell you another story.
I was left home alone at the age of 12. It was an inset day at school and my mum had to go to work for just a few hours, no more than a mile away from home. She thought I was old enough, I thought I was old enough. I probably was old enough to make sure that I was ok for a few hours but unfortunately someone else had other ideas. While I was upstairs getting dressed, there was a ring on the doorbell. I was in my underwear so clearly, didn’t answer it (plus, I’m sure my mum told me not to answer the door anyway). A mere half an hour later while still upstairs, I could hear my dog barking and noises coming from downstairs. Yep, you guessed it, there was a burglar in the house. To say I was terrified is an understatement. When I heard his footsteps coming up the stairs, I was on the phone to my Dad’s office (again a mere half a mile from home), and mr burglar heard me talking (I remember I was saying he’s coming upstairs in a hideously panicked tone and he legged it out the front door). Moments later the police arrived, my mum was called and she initally thought I’d gone out and left a door unlocked. I remember her face when I informed her that actually I was in the house. I can tell you now, that memory has haunted me forever. I am 32 now and still freak out if I’m home alone and upstairs! The littlest noise sends me into sheer panic and I’m convinced someone has got in.
So, was I too young? Was it a freak happening or should my mum or dad have been home with me at the age of twelve to make sure I was safe?
To be honest, I can’t answer the question! I don’t see the problem with my nephew spending some time at home alone, it’s never longer than a couple of hours. But then I think of what happened to me and I think otherwise. Then I think we would be wrapping them in cotton wool in a world that you need to be strong in.
Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at the NSPCC, said, “Ideally, parents should check that their children are happy and confident to be left at home alone and know what to do in an emergency.”
That’s all well and good; I knew what to do in an emergency (although it wasn’t me that called the police as I was worried the dog was just chasing a fly!), my mum had checked that I was happy and confident to be left alone for a few hours but not one of us could have anticipated what happened, actually happening.
It’s a tough one isn’t it? I’d love to hear your opinions!