December 18, 2018


If your child is staying home or allowed to go out without supervision while on school holidays, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules for their safety.

Natalie Gately, Edith Cowan University

Many working parents battle with school holidays, especially the long period between Christmas and the start of the new school year. Most people receive four weeks’ leave a year, but school holidays take up about 12 weeks of the year.

The maths clearly doesn’t add up. Even if both parents take their leave at different times, they’ll still need to find alternative care arrangements for younger children. Older kids will spend days at home unsupervised.

Leaving young people at home raises questions and concerns for parents. How long can they be at home alone? How can I ensure their safety? How will they occupy their time? What if someone comes to the house? Should I let them leave the house during the day to visit a friend? How secure will the house be?

Based on our soon-to-be-published findings on young offenders and previous research into home security (particularly burglaries), the following advice may provide guidance for concerned working parents during school holidays.

Read more:
Should we shorten the long summer break from school? Maybe not

Most burglars reported they are motivated by opportunity and convenience. They look for unoccupied homes with open doors and windows in daylight hours. Teach your children how to operate door locks, ensuring front and back doors stay locked. But keep keys in locked doors in case they need to exit quickly.

Most burglars won’t try to break in if they think someone is home.

Most burglars avoid homes if they detect someone is present. So there is a fine line between making the house occupied, while ensuring children do not open doors to strangers. Ensure your children know your rules on letting someone in the home without your permission or answering the door to anyone they don’t know. Have a plan on how to respond to this.

It’s also worth ensuring that you:

  • ensure your children know how to phone triple 0 in the event of an emergency. Write down your full name, address and telephone number and keep it by the phone. Kids (and adults!) can panic in emergencies and forget basic details
  • write down a responsible available person’s number if you are at a job that cannot take phone calls
  • create a family “phone book” with each family member’s particular friends. Make sure you know the names and phone numbers of their closest mates. That way if you ever lose your child or they do not return you have a starting point to phone their friends
  • limit time online and install security software that allows you to monitor online activity and avoid online predators.

Read more:
If we’re serious about supporting working families, here are three policies we need to enact now

Keeping children out of trouble during holidays

While most parents believe their child would never engage in antisocial behaviour, the lack of supervision, structure and boundaries during school holidays can lead some children to push boundaries or even break the law, especially when encouraged by peers.

Our interviews, soon to be released, with children who had been charged with an offence indicated they committed the burglary during daylight hours in the company of friends and for consumable items.

Very few actually “planned” their offences. Most just saw the opportunity (goods left on display, doors and windows left open) while they were roaming the streets looking for something to do. And often they were responding to dares by friends. The most common tactic to determine whether to burgle a property was simply to knock on the door to see if someone was in.

So, if your child is allowed to go out while on school holidays, here are some parameters you can consider for their safety:

  • agree on times they can be outside while you are not home (and limit extended periods of time)
  • agree on where they are allowed to go – locations that provide pseudo-supervision (such as shopping centres) are preferable to long periods of street-wandering
  • make sure they know not to go near people in cars who stop to talk to them (do not approach the car even if the person is speaking quietly). Explain that most adults do not ask young people for help – they usually ask other adults – so children must be wary of assisting adults when they are alone
  • instead of telling children never talk to strangers, tell them if they need help to look for a mother with children or go into a public place (like a shopping centre) and ask for help
  • notice if your child seems to have excess funds or new items in the house. Investigate further if they tell you they have been “given” or “loaned” something from a friend
  • notice if they seem quiet or reluctant to tell you how they have spent their day.

Don’t do this. Storing a spare key in a lock box is far smarter and safer.

Read more:
Yes, you can adopt a pet as a Christmas gift – so long as you do it correctly

If you’ve allowed your child to leave the home when you’re not there, there are still things to consider when they return to an empty house:

  • have a lockbox for spare keys so they can re-enter the home (10% of burglars reportedly entered a home with keys left in easily detected locations)
  • given burglaries are often committed during daylight hours, teach children to have a quick “sweep” of doors and not to enter if something looks out of place (such as a door that is now open or a damaged fly screen)
  • ensure they phone you or another responsible adult when they return.

By following these tips you can help keep your child safe and out of trouble when leaving them alone during the holidays.The Conversation

Natalie Gately, Criminology Courses Coordinator, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We may get commissions for purchases made using links in this post. Learn more.
  • interesting article and a great read – food for thought. I will happily let me kids be home alone from after school till early evening say 6pm until I get home from work, but I took leave for the school holidays as I didn’t think it appropriate for them to be home alone while I was at work. I think everyone has to pick what suits their family needs though as we are all different.


  • Some great tips for those with older kids, thanks.


  • Great tips.
    Personally I don’t like to leave my kids alone at home. It’s ok for my eldest two (14 and 13yr old), but just for a short time (1-2 hours at the most). My 8yr old has an reactive attachment disorder with kleptomania and I can’t leave her alone or with the older 2, my youngest has Down syndrome and can’t be left alone either or with the other siblings.


  • Great tips for working mums and dads.


  • It’s difficult bored children are often getting into trouble and it’s hard for parents to balance work and care especially when they get to the age where they don’t think they need to be looked after anymore.


  • Key Safes as they are known are very strong. You have to know the code, how to open it etc.
    A word of warning, if you forget the code don’t try to open it with a screwdriver and hammer. All you will do is damage the key safe. The guy who installed mine had been to a house where that had happened.


  • I’m very lucky that I’m just a casual worker and don’t really need to stress about getting time off or sorting out child care. And we’re a fair way off leaving our son at home by himself.


  • Good article! I am glad that it’s a very long way away before we have to worry about leaving our son home alone. It’s a scary thing to do!


Post a comment
Add a photo
Your MoM account

Lost your password?

Enter your email and a password below to post your comment and join MoM:

You May Like


Looks like this may be blocked by your browser or content filtering.

↥ Back to top

Thanks For Your Star Rating!

Would you like to add a written rating or just a star rating?

Write A Rating Just A Star Rating