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Any advice on AD being 'home alone'?

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AD is 12.5 years old. She goes to a specialist senior school where she is happy, although she regularly has very difficult days there. AD comes home by taxi, arriving at 5 -5.30pm depending on traffic and whether there are other children to be dropped off first.


My organisation is now in transition, working towards a merger and a new CEO has just arrived. I no longer have the flexibility that I had about taking work home etc. I've decided that AD will have to let herself into our house and spend 20 -30 minutes at home before I arrive back from work. She is looking forward to this, I'm concerned that she's not quite ready but accept that I'll probably always think that and have decided to try. I've told AD that she can get herself a snack and play on the iPad (her favourite activity that is usually carefully controlled), but must not try to do any cooking (even toast).


I'd really welcome any advice from those with older children who have already managed the transition to leaving them at home by themselves.


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My older dd was 12 when we first started leaving her home alone for short periods (though not necessarily after school as my DH works from home). She has many issues generally and ADHD, so I always said no cooking, no inviting anyone around etc and felt anxious at first but she was really sensible as it turned out.


The only issue we ever had (and still sometimes have now, even though she's 16) is that on occasion she can be very overwhelmed by her feelings and then doesn't like to be home alone. So a bad day at school has sometimes been a trigger for her and that is what I would have feared had she had to come home to an empty house at that age. ie I'm not sure what she might have done - we had some running away / refusal to come home around the age of 14 - 15 due to school issues and I guess that could have been a worry.


Hard one - but it sounds like it's only for a short time each day. Maybe leave a nice snack for her to have when she arrives in case of moods? (if that might be an issue)


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Would she be allowed off transport without someone there to receive her? My son is on SEN transport and they wouldn't be allowed to leave him at home without an adult being present.


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Many thanks for the advice, Milly - I certainly need to add in the condition about not inviting anyone around.


AD is in fact on SEN transport, but it is a private taxi and they drop her off at the end of our road. Fingers crossed that they don't change the provider as it's working well at the moment and I did have huge problems in the past: AD had to go to an after-school club 3 days a week and initially the LA refused to allow their taxi to take AD there (even though it was closely than home). Luckily common-sense prevailed.


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Hi, slightly different but I'll give you some of my experience. Ok so for blossom I couldn't have left her at home alone at all at that age.

But Partridge, he was a much more steady prospect because of his character. I presented time alone as a reward for being trustworthy. So I could leave him on his own for 5 mins while I posted a letter and no one died.

(Actually now I think on it google holly van gulden and permanence and constancy)

He was very anxious to start with, not least that he'd mess up so he needed to have thought through what he's going to do & when. Abandonment is a big fear for him

Needed massive ott reassurance that you were 2mins away, 1 min away. Text is a wonderful thing for this.

Also 'track my phone'

Partridge has trauma with a dollop of aspergers. He's young for his age.

I used to always watch poirot on to with him when we got in and we're just me & him

It added some element of niceness and bonding after being apart


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Again different - but my AD used to be dropped by transport from a school with an inclusion centre just 5 mins before I had to pick up my son from the local school (this was primary age). I used to bring her in then leave her watching TV as it was much safer than taking her with me. I initially took her with me but it meant dragging her along straight off the transport and she was always very hyped up and used to run into the road etc if she got half the chance - so leaving her at home with the TV - which helped her de-stress was much the best option - we came home and she was calm!


I think your AD will be fine - and it will help her feel more grown up - if you feel she is ok to be left for such a short time then I would go with it. Maybe leave a snack or something as someone suggested so she feels cared for and let her know she can text you - so she has contact if she needs it.


Also maybe have a contingency plan if there is any problems - such as she can't get the key to work (this happened to us when my daughter was much older - I think she gets confused about which way to turn the key) or is scared to go in the house alone for any reason (such as suspicious characters hanging around outside) - maybe a neighbour she could go to who would be in?


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Really helpful, as always. thank you


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My lad gets home and lets himself in a couple of days a week. He also gets himself up and ready for school a couple of days a week too, though my 24yo is the one who leaves last and locks up.

He is a stickler for routine and once routines are set he follows them religiously to within a few minutes.

He knows to lock the door after himself and always does, he knows I leave a drink in the fridge for him, he has occasionally answered the door but i discourage it and he goes to his room for the most part.

I was nervous about it but he does OK.


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Last summer at about the same age I allowed my DD to let herself into the house alone on a few occasions. She didn't feel able to look after the key so we hid it in the garden in a safe place and she actually managed ok. She locked the door again straight away and wouldn't answer the phone (making it difficult for me to check she had got in ok!) but was very proud she had managed it. I got in soon after her and had had a neighbour just keep an eye out.


This year I have left her home alone, for around an hour, on a couple of occasions and she is much more relaxed about it. She watches telly or texts friends on her mobile the whole time I am gone as far as I can tell. It is a worry but she is growing up and part of that is the confidence to be on her own and make her own decisions (even if that is only which tv channel or whether to answer the phone). She absolutely loves the fact that I trust her even if she is a bit nervous of being alone still.


It didn't entirely work the first time, when I came home to find she had spoken to her granddad through the window but not let him in because I wasn't there and she couldn't open the door. We have since had to redefine the ground rules slightly!


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I remember our LA issued us all with a booklet from the NSPCC about all sorts of things relating to child safety and they recommended not leaving children under the age of 15 alone, sorry I know that's not what you want to hear, but that's what they recommended.


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It's difficult isn't it. As a child my mum didn't work and was always at home. We were NEVER home alone. As I got older I hated being dragged to the local shop and back again (or other short outings) just because it felt like my mum didn't trust me in the house. I have never had a key to my mums home, even when I lived there in my twenties for a short period.

My husband in comparison had working parents and as well as letting himself in each day, he also turned on the oven for tea or hung out a wash or any other little jobs his mum left him, from about 10 years old onwards. We both now have keys to his parents home and I regularly let myself in when passing.

My husband has a much more relaxed and open relationship with his parents much of it because they expected and allowed him to make mistakes as a child and grow in confidence because of that. They were much more laid back and easy going and his attachment style is much stronger than mine, maybe because of it!

I know our children are not 'normal' children and I'm definitely not that relaxed with DD but a lot of life is a gamble and as long as things are well planned and thought through I do find she usually manages ok. I do change my style to suit her moods though so another week I may not be so laid back at all!!


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I think you just have to make a judgement within your own situation - 15 sounds a bit excessive - and if children are never left alone then they could potentially go wild if left alone for the first time at that age. As I said my daughter was primary age and I judged - knowing her - that she would be safer alone in the house glued to the TV for 10 minutes rather than being dragged to school to meet my son straight off transport - at an age when I think it's actually illegal to do so (under 12 I think). Bear in mind too there is a big difference between the amount of time Clr1 would be leaving her daughter - and the reasons - and the conditions she would put in place to protect / re-assure her than the sort of situations SS would probably have in mind when drafting their booklet. Some children are left alone overnight - or even for days - at a young age - and that is what they would have in mind I would have thought. My mum used to leave me in the car with 2 younger children when I was about 7 ( a 5 year old and a baby) - to pop in a shop for a few minutes - I don't think she was at all neglectful but just practical and it helped me develop a sense of responsibility - she showed me how to sound the horn - and use the brake if necessary. I think its what's called risk assessments


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NSPCC guidance and quiz is here, I think they do a fair job of not setting a one-size-fits-all answer, but they do unpack the issues.


https://home-alone.nspcc.org.uk/


One thing that worked well for mine was for them to call me at work to say they were home safely. The "touching base" helped for many years but was especially useful the first few times.


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Lettice - thanks for sharing that NSPCC link - not seen it before but its excellent


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I would be perfectly happy for my daughter to let herself in, make a drink and watch TV etc for half an hour. She is 13 and I have been letting her do that sort of thing for quite a while now. But I suppose it depends whether your daughter has been left already for short periods while you post a letter, nip to the village shop and back, run into the supermarket while she listens to music in the car etc... I think independence happens gradually and as I am a single parent my daughter has had to be more independent than some other children just through necessity. I made sure she could make a sandwich and a cold drink for herself at 5, progressing to cups of tea and ready meals etc not so I could leave her but in case I was desperately ill ever! I made sure she knew how to call my parents and where she could find their number, how to call for an ambulance etc.


I feel far happier about her being at home on her own than out and about on her own even though of course I have to let her do that too! At home she is sensible and I have very few worries, she obeys the rules about not answering the door and I leave the answerphone so that she can hear who is calling so only picks up to me or grandparents when she hears us speak. She has sensibly rung my parents once when she didn't know what to do about something and I didn't answer my mobile because I was driving. We know all our neighbours which helps as she would be able to ask for any help if desperate and we have role played lots of different scenarios. Out and about she might encounter more difficult problems to manage, it sounds silly but I honestly think she would be far more able to deal with a power cut or a tap that wouldn't turn off at home than a friend being nasty to her at the park...


One thing though is that it might be very important to her that you are home exactly when you say and if there is a problem you must have a system to make sure she knows you will be late ... That's why I would call our landline because she might have her phone switched off or not charged or she might have left it at school etc.


Would she know what to do if she got home and found the house broken into? What about if there had been a leak from the water tank? I have found my daughter to be an incredibly practical person probably because she had to take care of herself at a young age in her birth family, not saying this was a good thing, it wasn't but she is a real survivor.


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Oh and like Pear Tree it is important to do something nice on arriving home. I always sit and have a cup of tea and a chat immediately on arriving home and make sure she knows my focus is totally on her. She may have had a bad day at school but she is able to not think about it until I get home, it helps that she absolutely loves to switch off in front of the TV! I couldn't trust her to get started with her homework!!


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Oh and like Pear Tree it is important to do something nice on arriving home. I always sit and have a cup of tea and a chat immediately on arriving home and make sure she knows my focus is totally on her. She may have had a bad day at school but she is able to not think about it until I get home, it helps that she absolutely loves to switch off in front of the TV! I couldn't trust her to get started with her homework!!


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I think 15 is rather old, even for many adopted children. Most children will take themselves to and from school independently once they are 11 or 12, and I would have thought generally they were safer at home than out. By around 13 I was regularly babysitting my younger brother and sister - but that was decades ago, admittedly!


I think you need to build it up gradually. Here we have left our children for 10, 20 minutes etc to build up their confidence and are still at that stage with our current 12 year old. We have also left her for up to half an hour with her 16 yo sister - partly to build her trust in her sister. Both have mobiles, dd1 knows our mobile numbers by heart even if she happened to mislay her phone and we do have family living close by to whom they could go in an emergency.


We do the same with going out alone - the 12 yo now goes to and from school by herself, and visits the local shop regularly by herself. With her sister, she has also gone to the local supermarket about 10 minutes away. I see it as part of my role as a parent. In fact, I'd trust the 12 year old to do more - however, she is quite reluctant to be left alone so we work around what she feels ready for.


I prefer to gradually equip them with the skills needed to be alone sometimes, rather than wait until they are old enough according to some guideline. By the way, there is no age at which children are deemed too young to be left - it's more what any reasonable person would consider appropriate. So, for example, it wouldn't be considered reasonable to leave a 3 year old ever, a 10 year old for hours or a 13 year old over night etc.


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