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Leaving Your Children Home Alone

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 12 Oct 2021 |
Child Babysitter Home Alone Away

There is no fixed age at which a child is deemed ‘safe’ to be left at home alone. Rather than specifying an age, the law says that a parent commits an offence if leaving the child on their own puts them at ‘risk.’

In practical terms, it is not advisable to leave your child alone if they are under the age of 13. This is because even a short period of time spent alone can be distressing or lonely for them. You also have to consider whether your child could cope in an emergency. Of course, this is not an absolute rule and varies from child to child. Some children who are under 13 are particularly mature and may be better able to cope than some 14 year olds. Similarly, a 14 year old could have the emotional maturity of an 8 year old.

If You Decide To Leave Your Child At Home Alone

Make sure your child can contact you if they need to by telephone. Ensure that wherever you are you can go home immediately if you need to. Before you leave, take the time to explain the dangers of the home to your child, such as appliance and not answering the door, and ensure that they understand them.

Your child should understand how to ring the emergency services, as well as know who they can and cannot trust. You may also wish to give them a list of people they can contact, such as a nearby neighbour or other trusted person. Whatever happens, ensure that your child is happy to be left alone and tell them what time you will be coming back. You will need to keep your promise and not be late.

How Long Can You Be Gone For?

Again, there are no hard and fast rules on this. It will depend on the child, but you should remember that you could be breaking the law if you put your child at risk because of the amount of time you are absent. Under no circumstances should you leave a child under the age of 16 home alone overnight, and a toddler or baby should not be left alone at home at all, not even for a few minutes.

If you have to be away from your child, you may wish to get a babysitter. Again, there are no laws on how old a babysitter should be, but you should think twice about hiring a babysitter under the age of 16 unless you have carefully assessed their suitability. If you leave your child with a babysitter under the age of 16, you will still retain responsibility for anything that goes wrong while you are away.

Your Checklist

Before deciding whether to leave your child alone at home, it may help if you answer these questions:
  • Where will your child be left? In the home or part of the home?
  • How long will you be gone for?
  • Consider the age of your child, and their relative maturity and responsibility
  • What are the risks involved?
  • Will there be other children at home with them?
  • How will your child feel if they are left alone?
You know your child better than anyone else in the world, so you are in the best place to judge whether they are likely to be ‘at risk’ if left alone in your home.

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Hi, can I leave my 17 years old son to look after my 13 year old overnight? I have to go to abroad for a week.
MM - 12-Oct-21 @ 9:41 AM
Can I leave a17 , 15 and 9 year old overnight on their own?
Roobs - 18-Aug-21 @ 10:22 AM
Hello...i have 4 kids....3 12 13and 16 and half boy ....i want to start to go to work 4 to 9 evening...is ok to leave them home ? My work gonna be 2minits away.
Ana Maria Caldaras - 25-Mar-21 @ 9:13 AM
Hi can I leave my 17 nearly 18 year old son to look after my 13 year old overnight? Knowing that they are perfectly safe and my eldest is responsible?
Lucy - 1-Dec-20 @ 10:52 AM
My work are wanting me back in the office as my furlough period has ended. My husband works away and the only childcare I had previously was my mother in law who is now unable to help due to health. My work have suggested leaving my mature 10 year old son alone. I was extremely upset by the suggestion as its my job to make sure he is looked after. He currently stays home when I go shopping but we have constant communication via mobile and also have family aware when he is home alone so they can call and check in if my signal drops whe in the shopping centrehe loves that I trust him to stay home during this time. I on the other hand feel like I'm on a mission to get everything I need in record time to get home to him. My work hours are 30 hours a week with full days on Monday and Tuesdays. Due to covid19 I'm even more worried about sending him to a private childcare centre due to risk of being around others that my not stick to the safety guidelines and my son doesn't like the idea as he has never been in a childminding set up before. Can my work pressure me to do this? How long would be acceptable, as a maximum time frame to leave a 10 year old alone? My son is keen for me to leave him for longer as it makes him feel grown up but I dont want to get in to trouble. Also we have 2 dogs that he has grown up with and normally they would be out of the way (just incase... you never know). I don't know if having dogs actually impacts leaving him alone for any period of time? Any advise would be great. I normally get told im to protective and need to cut the apron strings but he is my world and want to make sure I'm doing the right thing as I would have him wrapped in cotton wool for as long as he would allow
Workmum - 18-Oct-20 @ 12:13 PM
I have an 23 year old disabled daughter with special needs She doesn’t want to go out But I need to buy food so can I leave my daughter home alone while I get shopping and I would be Gone for around 1hr and she would be able to use social media and video to contact me and she is safe in her wheelchair as she can’t get around the home on her own I just want to know if I can go out to do a shop for food as we can’t live without food
Sam - 23-Aug-20 @ 7:40 PM
Can i leave my 11 and 12year old home alone for 30 to 49 min while they are sleeping todo early morning market or say get breakfast they r very mature they no all contacts in an emergancy and my cousin lives behindus to go literrally 1 mile to store
Pumpkin - 17-Apr-20 @ 3:16 PM
Hi I'm after planning a holiday abroad for 2yrs time when my 3 kids will be ages 18yrs, 17yrs, 17yrs. Will I be I be OK to leave them for 2 weeks?
Night owl - 13-Apr-20 @ 5:53 PM
My soon to be ex girlfriendwent out at night and didn't return to get the kids up and ready for school ages 6 year old girl and 14 year old boy, can she get done for this I tried calling but no answer finally got back to me when kids where at school not first time she has done this, don't feel safe leaving my daughter with her.
Bert - 20-Mar-20 @ 5:28 AM
My ex and her partner both work and leave my 13 and 11 year old at home all day without any adult supervision. My 11 year old regularly calls me distressed with this situation. This child is allowed to walk the streetsalone and doesn't have the direct contact number for the mothers work in case of emergency. Is this allowed or acceptable? Thanks
Dboy - 23-Oct-19 @ 7:34 PM
I want to know if I can leave my 12 yr old with a 7 yr old just while I walk the dogs or pop to do a quick local shop ..?
Neemol - 23-Sep-19 @ 5:45 PM
I am after advice on leaving my 3 children ages, 14, 11 and 10 at home alone for about an hour in the morning 5:30 ish while they are in bed sleeping while I go to the gym. This is less than 1/2 a mile away so can get back quickly. Before doing so wanting advice to whether it legal or not. They would be safe and have big dog, good area and everywhere locked.
Lauz - 25-Jun-19 @ 10:26 PM
My daughter starts secondary school in September. She currently attends after school club as I work until 5pm. Once she starts in September she will get the bus home for around 4pm. By the time I’ve picked up her siblings from nursery/childminders and after school club I won’t be home much before 5:30. Can she be left at the house alone from 4-5:30? She is asking if she can, but I thought she had to be 13??
Nh200 - 11-Jun-19 @ 2:54 PM
I am asking for some advice, my ex husband and his new partnerare leaving my son13 alone at home with her other 4 childrenages 17 down to 11 all day whilst they both go to work, I live in the same town we operate a shared care facility which is a week on and a week off with myself covering all school holidays for my son, I work from home to facilitate this. This week was school holidays, my son should have been with me today ...he didnt let me know he was staying with his fathers children at home with no adult supervisionand I understood he was to be with me under my supervision ...I contacted his father and it appears they had planned to do this again tomorrow...is that allowed and is there anything i can to to prevent this happening again?
al - 26-Apr-19 @ 5:47 AM
Can I leave my 9 and 7 year old kids alone at late evening for 30 minutes?
Anna - 23-Apr-19 @ 7:10 PM
Can l leave my daughter 13 with her sister who is 10
Loz72 - 4-Apr-19 @ 1:28 AM
Can I leave my 13year daughter along with her sis for 4hours one day aweej
Loz72 - 4-Apr-19 @ 1:26 AM
hi ive decided to go abroad with an old pal as we have both had a stressful year and i just booked for a week - my children will be 16 and 18 and half by the time we go - I have left them on their own overnight from time to time and also when i have been at work , but once my daughter left the gas on and then switched it off so there was a smell of gas in the house once so ive now told them just use microwave. However , i know i did this myself when i was aged 36 so i think she just needs to get used to how it works Everyone else tells me they will be fine but im hoping to get an older sibling to stay if possible who is aged 30 . However I would say that my daughter (18) is less mature than my son (16) . When i left them overnight i rang them before bedtime and first thing in the morning - Sometimes I do a long shift at work 8am to 8pm but get home at 8.30 , so long as theres food ready made and snacks they have been fine Son knows how to put central heating on , use microwave, not answer door, how to get out in case of fire, everyone says im worried about nothing as my ex left them on their own for a week when he was working away (yes he gets them for a week then works away and leaves them)
sel - 20-Mar-19 @ 10:36 PM
I have a 15 year old son who as additional needs & his not a typical 15 year old.. I want him to have some independence & quite a few of my friends say l should give him more independence but l am unsure about leaving him on his own for at least 5/6 hours as l would like a night out as l haven't had a night out in a long time. My son can be immature sometimes but he does know some lifeskills e.g making drinks, making food & how to use a mobile. I would be very grateful for some guidance.
Butterfly - 30-Dec-18 @ 3:22 AM
I want to know if I can live my 12 year old boy home alone from 7pm/11pm ones in a month I spoke to him he is happy for me to go but is me he have all the emergency numbers also I will be calling him also he comes home alone from school but I'm home to welcome him after school
Rizz - 8-Dec-18 @ 1:50 AM
My son will be nearly 17 at the time we are going abroad he refuses to go can he stay at home alone
Maz - 26-Oct-18 @ 4:08 PM
I’m worried my 6 year old niece is being left alone for 2-3 hours each night. My sister works nights from 10pm till 7 am and her partner works as a minibus driver who does drop offs for companies. I’m almost certain that my niece is being left alone between 11pm and 1am and again between 5am and 7am.
T - 17-Oct-18 @ 7:57 PM
My ex wife leaves my twins home alone while she goes to work my twins are 14 and one selfharms is there a time limit for my child in case she selfharm badly .
Jimmy - 8-Oct-18 @ 6:06 PM
Is it ok to leave my 13yr old son with my 19yr old son alone at home for 3nights. Want to take my daughter abroad for her 18th birthday but not sure if it's ok to leave them alone for that long as I've never left them before.
Marieson - 4-Oct-18 @ 8:34 PM
can a 12 year old be left to mind a 3 year old
ppppp - 8-Sep-18 @ 6:14 PM
Hi i know one family she have a daugher 7 y old ,at school with my soon and one 3 and a half and 2 y old daughers so many times when i go to school with my soon in the mornig , she is there with old daugher at school , i ask her were is the girls , she said at home . And to many times i foud her with housband at shoping , she said the older daugher looking after 2 smal girls , i m really worried about the girls ,because the girls she is not mature ,she giust 3 y old . Her going to work and live the gilrs in the house ,or she is dont care to much !
Charlotte - 12-Jul-18 @ 11:30 PM
Deirdre - Your Question:
Hi, We have 5 children aged 17,15,13,10 &7. We have never left them home alone over night but we’re wondering at what point will this be possible. The 15 ,17 &13 are very responsible and our house has security gates front and rear. Thankyou

Our Response:
This really has to be your own decision. There are no laws that specify age at which children can be left alone - the law just says that you shouldn’t leave a child alone if they’ll be at risk.
LawAndParents - 26-Jun-18 @ 2:21 PM
Hi, We have 5 children aged 17,15,13,10 &7. We have never left them home alone over night but we’re wondering at what point will this be possible. The 15 ,17 &13 are very responsible and our house has security gates front and rear. Thankyou
Deirdre - 24-Jun-18 @ 10:12 PM
Audsie - Your Question:
My neighbour has A 2 year old and she leaves her when she goes out sometimes in the evening, the neighbour on the other side pops in and out to make sure she is ok as she’s sleeping , the time scale varies from about 20 mins to a few hours, I don’t think this is right as the neighbour watching the child doesn’t do regular checks and is literally in and out of the house. I’m not sure what to do.

Our Response:
It might be fair to talk to the mother of the child if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, and you are genuinely concerned about the child, call the NSPCC or talk to your local children's services.
LawAndParents - 22-May-18 @ 3:00 PM
My neighbour has A 2 year old and she leaves her when she goes out sometimes in the evening, the neighbour on the other side pops in and out to make sure she is ok as she’s sleeping , the time scale varies from about 20 mins to a few hours, I don’t think this is right as the neighbour watching the child doesn’t do regular checks and is literally in and out of the house. I’m not sure what to do .
Audsie - 16-May-18 @ 2:24 PM
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