With the teachers’ strike leaving many schools closed, parents may be considering leaving their kids at home unsupervised. But is there a minimum age at which kids can legally stay home alone? Here’s some important info.
No set age
Unlike other provinces, in Québec there’s no set “legal” age to leave a child at home unsupervised.
You must consider your child’s age but also their personality, their level of independence and the home environment. For example, is your house in an isolated area or are there neighbours nearby who could help your child if needed? Does your child have the necessary skills to stay alone? How long will you be away from home?
Ok, but approximately what age?
Even if there is no set age in Québec, the Canada Safety Council offers the following guidelines:
- At 10: a responsible child could remain unsupervised after coming home from school or day camp if they can reach an adult easily.
- At 12: most children can stay alone for a longer time, such as a full day.
If a child is frequently left on their own and this poses a risk to their safety, security or development, the Director of Youth Protection could become involved. In the case of a serious accident, parents could even face criminal charges.
Such cases are rare but a more common situation is parents being held legally responsible for damage accidentally caused by a child. For example, if your child leaves a tap running and this causes water damage to a neighbour’s apartment, you could be held responsible for the cost of repairs. However, if you have home insurance, this is likely covered.
What if you don’t want to leave your child home alone but you don’t have enough vacation days to be with them? You could consider the option of unpaid leave. For more info, see our article Time Off Work for Personal and Family Reasons.