I had a dilemma. At what ‘stage’ can I leave my children home alone for a night by themselves? I use the word ‘stage’ deliberately as I know the legal ‘age’, in New Zealand it’s 15. But when can I feel comfortable that, if I’m not there, they’ll be alright. The answer of never doesn’t help!
The reason for this dilemma was I had to facilitate an overnight work “retreat” and, while I could have organised my mum to come over, my children were now both old enough (Rog was 17 & Liv 15) and pretty responsible. My issue is not that they won’t cope and feed themselves, it’s what if something goes wrong. At that age they simply don’t have the experience and skills for dealing with unexpected situations.
I decided the best thing to do was talk to them and see how they felt about it. I explained the situation and got the answer “well duh”. “Mum left us home for a week a while ago and it was a school week. Uncle popped in and out, but mainly out.”
I wasn’t angry. More surprised that I had been slow to recognise that, at age 17, Rog could leave home anytime if he wanted. It made sense to start to leave him in charge (in small doses, I think a week may have slightly too long) so he can start to feel what it is like to be responsible. Liv is just as responsible but, at 15, slightly more impulsive.
So I stocked up the fridge so they wouldn’t starve, checked in with them before I took off and then left them to it. I prepared a safety plan (I will put this into an upcoming blog) which stepped them through how to act in a range of situations like fire, unwelcome visitor etc. It’s mainly common sense but teenagers often lack this vital survival ability. I also impressed upon them that they needed to act responsibly! They were on trial.
What did I return to?
A pretty quiet house with just the kitchen looking noticeably worse for wear. I’m sure they stayed up very late, as I would have done, but it was summer holidays so they would have just slept in to compensate. My role is to help prepare them to be able to look after themselves in the big bad world and this was a small step on their, and my, journey.