There comes a time in every parents life when they need to duck out to the shops or attend an important afternoon meeting, and they think “Can I leave my kid at home without them burning the house down?”.
It’s a difficult question, and as we took to the forums to quiz those who’ve been there before, there was a strong theme among many of the answers: It depends on the child.
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In terms of the law, each state is slightly different. According to raisingchildren.net.au, only Queensland mentions a specific age, drawn from the law which states: “A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time commits a misdemeanour. Maximum penalty is three years imprisonment.”
Of course, we are talking within the realms of reason and we’d hope imprisonment isn’t on the cards when just popping down to Woolies to get some emergency toilet paper.
So if you’re wondering if it’s ok to start allowing your child to stay home after school rather than heading to aftercare, or are just after some parent-to-parent reassurance, here’s what our members had to say on the topic:
“Minimum age for flying alone (as per my knowledge) is 12 years, so I’d say not before that. But if I am stepping out just for 5-10 minutes to go next door or running to the grocery store near by – I’d imagine 7 years or older should be fine. Can’t say for sure since my bub is still younger than that. The only time I leave him home alone is when I step out to throw garbage and know I’ll be back in less than a minutes (and still check twice that I have the keys and phone).” – bh member Peach Perfect
“For me it depended on the child and trusting my instinct. My older son was mature for his age and I trusted to leave him alone after school. I started by letting him walk home on his own when he was just 7-years-old . At that time I was home with my newborn baby and school pickup time was always hard for me as that’s when my baby used to sleep. He was 10 when I started working full time , so he used to stay at home alone after school , but I had a neighbour keeping an eye on him at intervals. For my younger son he is almost 11 years and I can’t trust him to be alone, let alone walk/bus on his own . I don’t feel he is ready to be left alone . So I guess it depends on the child and how mature and ready they are to stay home on their own.” – bh member MoonlightSak16
“I agree that it depends largely on the maturity of the child. I was able to trust all of my kids to be at home alone around the age of 10 when I’d step out for a bit. I rarely go anywhere overnight, and have not yet been put in a position to consider leaving any of the kids home alone overnight. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable to do that until they were late teens.” – bh member IndieAna
“Personally I think it depends on how confident, mature and trustworthy the child is and what back ups are in place if there was to be an issue of any kind. It also depends on what kind of area you live in. My eldest was always very confident and very mature for her age. She once went on the train to Brisbane by herself when she was 14. Other parents were horrified that I allowed her to do that but she came to me and showed me how she was going to get to where she wanted to go and she had it all worked out with times and cost, etc. I figured if she was able to do this then she needed to have the opportunity to do this. I’m also that mum that let her travel around the world on her own when she was 17. She paid for and booked the trip all by herself and other than one small hiccup which I sorted out for her… she had a blast and has often thanked me for being so supportive of her.” – bh member Meedee
“ If something goes wrong, [it’s good to make sure] the kids know what to do, who to call. The kids must know what to do if someone knocks on the door or phones. Have rules and make sure the kids know the rules.” – bh member misfortune8
“This is hard to answer, but when my son was 10 I did it couple of times, but not long hours. I made sure that he know how to open and close all the locks and windows in the home and how to use the keys. I instructed him not to answer the phone or the door.” – bh member Angage
“Oh gosh that is a hard question! These days because of all the craziness I probably wouldn’t let mine until they became teenagers. Although I trust my now 10 (nearly 11 year) old I am too scared something would go wrong and I’d be stressed out of my brain. When I was a child I stayed home around the same age as my daughter is now, but the world was a much different place in the 90s.” – bh member ThisIsMe
“About 12 if it is just to pop to the shop, but if it’s alot further away and for a longer time, I never left mine until they were 14.” – bh member Wendy1965