I Left My Child Home Alone When He Was 7 - Would You Do The Same?
Is it ever okay to leave a child home alone? A question that would no doubt spark a raucous debate at a dinner party, especially during the coronavirus outbreak when school closures and keeping kids isolated are leaving working parents perplexed over who is going to watch their child while they go to work.
It was serendipitous timing coming across a Popsugar article about a US mum leaving her 7-year-old home alone and questioning whether or not she now considers herself a free-range parent for doing so. Reading her story, I couldn’t help but wonder when is the right age to leave a child at home and, if I do, will this forever have an impact on my parenting style?
Leaving A Child Home Alone In Australia
While the US currently has only 3 states with laws designating a specific age that children can legally be left at home, surely all Australian states have a legal viewpoint on this? I mean, we are talking about leaving children. Home. Alone.
I was pretty surprised when, on closer examination, I discovered that Queensland is the only state that legally specifies how old your child should be before you can leave them home alone (12 and over). As far as other states go, according to the Department of Communities & Justice, we as parents need to use our own judgement on this one. While I appreciate the freedom to make the call with my own child, it’s still worrying to think of a child as young as 3, for example, being left to their own devices.
Of course, the Department of Communities & Justice specifies that if a child is left alone for an inordinate amount of time and in an unsafe environment, police or child protection services will step in – phew!
Does It Depend On The Child?
The child in the Popsugar article was 7 years old when his mum left him home alone and she did so for 15 minutes when he was running a high temperature and she had to drop her daughter at preschool. All necessary emergency procedures were discussed beforehand, the neighbours were notified, and the mum felt comfortable leaving her responsible son to watch cartoons for 15 minutes while she ran out the door. He was perfectly safe when she returned and even declared himself a “big kid” for holding down the fort.
While I don’t hold any judgement for this mum I, personally, don’t think I could leave a 7-year-old home alone. I don’t even feel 100% comfortable leaving my 7-year-old dog home alone. There are just too many things that could go wrong. What if the anticipated 15 minutes takes longer due to traffic? What if my car breaks down? What if someone knocks on the door? What if my son accidentally trips and falls down the stairs? What if, what if, what if!
I could be thinking this way because my child is the kind of child that runs around with his undies on his head and doesn’t seem to notice when he’s stepping in dog poo, so imagine what he’d get up to while home alone?! Of course, there are plenty of parents out there who would argue that it all depends on the child you’re leaving home alone, and I completely agree.
If I leave my responsible child home alone, will I forever be considered a free-range parent? Free-range parenting is giving your child the freedom to make their own decisions and teaching them to function independently without a parent. While I do believe that it’s important to instil independence in your child from an early age, by this I’m merely referring to getting them to wipe their own nose, pour their own cereal, or choose which colour pencil they want to use. And while I’m far from a helicopter parent, I still would like to hold some of the reigns until my undie-wielding child is at least 10.
As far as the question of whether leaving your child at home makes you a free-range parent, I don’t think one concept has anything to do with the other. Yes, you are giving your child a great deal of independence and confidence by leaving them home alone, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll suddenly become lax in all other areas of parenting.
Would you leave, or have you left, your child home alone at 7 years old? Let us know in the comments!
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