Home Alone

Are you asking yourself if your child is old enough and responsible enough to be left alone?

When making the decision, consider the following:

  • Parents are responsible for their children until the age of 16.
  • Children under the age of 10 years should not be left alone.
  • Children under the age of 12 years should not be left alone to care for other children.

Parents should consider all of the following:

  • the child’s age
  • the time of day and length of time the child will be alone
  • the location of the home
  • the child’s comfort level with being left alone
  • the child’s knowledge of emergency situations
  • if the child has taken a babysitting course
  • that periods of family stress such as separation, moving, or the death of a family member are not good times to begin leaving your child alone

Measure your child’s abilities:

has he/she demonstrated an ability to take care of herself or himself?
can he/she get dressed, find safe activities, remember and follow instructions, and be relied upon to care for property?
does he/she demonstrate good judgement and have experience working out problems independently?
does he/she have special needs that might make it difficult to perform tasks such as going to the washroom, calling for help, or getting out of the home in an emergency?
does he/she have any behavioural problems been identified by you, the school, or a doctor, that would pose a risk to the child if left alone?
For example:
children who have a history of self-harm
aggression
fire setting
wandering from home
destruction of property
an inability to concentrate and follow directions
could pose a risk to themselves or others if they were unsupervised.
If the child requires one-to-one help at school from a support worker or teaching assistant, it may not be wise to leave him/her alone at home without direct supervision.
If you decide your child is old enough and responsible enough to be left alone, develop a safety plan with your child.

Teach your child:

How to answer the telephone and the door
Never to tell a caller/visitor that he or she is alone
To hang up immediately if a caller becomes rude
How to deal with a collect phone call (it may be you calling)
How to call 9-1-1 or local emergency number
How to take a message and how to leave a message
Where to find important phone numbers
Where and how to go for help

Safety hints for parents
To find out how much your child knows about what to do in specific situations, such as staying alone, play the “What if . . .” game.

ASK:
What if there is a fire?
What if a stranger comes to the door with a parcel?
What if you were really hungry?
What if you were scared or hurt?
What if the lights went out?
What if you got locked out?

Your child’s ability to handle these situations should help you decide if he or she is old enough and responsible enough to be left alone.
What does the law say about leaving children alone?
Child and Family Services Act 1999, R.S.O. 1990, C-C-11, as amended states the following:
No person having charge of a child less than 16 years of age shall leave the child without making provision for his or her supervision and care that is reasonable in the circumstances.
Where a person is charged with contravening subsection (3) and the child is less than 10 years of age, the onus of establishing that the person made provision for the child’s supervision and care that was reasonable in the circumstances rests with the person.