Leaving children alone in the holidays

>>  Sunday, August 26, 2012

When is a child no longer a child?  When are they capable, able and safe to leave alone?

Well not when they are only 2, that's for sure.  But there isn't an actual legal age on leaving children alone.  As always, the NSPCC put it much better than I could.

The law does not set a minimum age at which children can be left alone. However, it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts him or her at risk

Cog has been used to being in the house on her own for  quite a while now, but  these summer holidays she has spent many days alone.  She's taken the opportunity to get her homework done and to add insult to injury I've had a tutor coming in once a week who has been giving her even more homework to keep her occupied.  She'll thank me later...ok, maybe she won't.

When she was just a tiny thing, about 3, I recall her sitting on the bottom of the stairs sobbing as I told her she had to put her own shoes on or we would not be going out that day.  Sometimes I have guilt flash backs about it, but then I remember how quickly she learnt to do it herself.

This summer I have gone to work with a comment of  "There's food in the fridge and cupboards and emergency money in the tin if you don't like any of it".

Sometimes I think maybe it's a bit cruel, maybe at her age (14) she should have someone cooking up breakfast well if she got up before 8am I would do it, taking her out everyday and putting a lunch in front of her.  But on the other hand I see a young adult that is perfectly capable of looking after herself, feeding herself, self motivating to get out of bed, sit at a desk and do work, empties the dishwasher, folds the washing and does errands to the Post Office.

So maybe it's a balance  We are lucky, Grandma lives up the road, we have great friends around the corner and I know that they would be there in a shot for her.  We live in a village with a village community spirit, she is safe popping to the shops and with this invisible support mechanism she is able to gain confidence in herself.

I was fretting about whether I had let her down a bit this holiday.  But whilst it seems like she has had a lot of time alone, out of a possible 47 days she has only had 9.  But interestingly, it's what she seems to recall most.  Her passing comment to me being "if nothing else, at least I've finally mastered the tin opener this summer holiday".

She has however also mastered a mean vegetable risotto and a noodle stir-fry and has made comments like "a bit of Chinese 5 spice really picked up the taste today".

And besides, to ease my conscience a little, each day after I've got home from work we've gone out together for a long walk, to the late night shops, to bowling or the cinema.  I'm pooped, I'll be glad when she's back at school!


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