In a nutshell: Age either 6 or 8 is when most people would let their child stay at a party without them (we polled 1,427 parents).
At some point in your family’s life, most of us tend to get to a point where we joke that our kids have more of a social life than us ?
It happens at that age when the party invites start rolling in and it feels like every weekend is spent taking your kids to a classmate’s house, pressie in hand, for a sugar-filled fun fest.
But when do you reach a point when you feel like you can drop them and go off for a couple of hours? When they’re babies or toddlers, it’s pretty much a dead cert that you’ll stick around.
But as kids grow – often, so does their need and want for independence from mum and dad, too.
What do parents say?
When we asked 1,427 parents at what age they’d leave their children at a party on their own, the most popular answers were:
- 6 or 8 (both 17%)
- 7 (15%)
- 10 (9%).
When we asked for more info, lots, unsurprisingly, said what age they’d let their kids do this would depend on how well they knew the household where the party was being held. And lots agreed it probably depends on the maturity of the child, too.
One respondent reckons it’s all part and parcel of your child going to school, saying: “I think by year 5 or 6 of primary school, kids will want to have parties without parents there.
“As long as one set of parents are around, it doesn’t have to be me.”
Another, who has 3 kids, the oldest being 12, told us: “I have done this already but it doesn’t feel right – I feel as if it should be 7 or 8 at least.”
And a couple pointed out that if your child has special needs – or strict dietary requirements – it can actually be really quite daunting leaving them without you. One said: “My son has severe food allergies, so I get a bit overprotective at parties.”
And another, whose oldest child is 12, commented: “I have 2 children with additional support needs… and I wouldn’t let them stay on their own for their own safety.”
What does the expert say?
Educational psychologist Naomi Burgess told us she thinks the parents responding to our survey have raised some really important points – especially when it comes to children with additional needs.
“Never be shy about chatting over your child’s needs and your concerns with the party-giver – I think they will probably be delighted to talk,” she advises.
“You may find that they might welcome your help and allocate you a discreet role at the party, so that you can stay, after all, running a child’s party is stressful.
“This can be a win-win situation; you won’t feel over-protective and the host may feel less anxious too. You may also end up making a good friend who has learned some helpful ways of engaging your child in social activities.
“In other circumstances, rather than second guess, I would always ask the host’s views on staying/leaving, and take their lead.
“Some like to run a tight ship, others are flexible, some might be tight on space, others might have loads of room, and if the party is in a venue there may or may not be a ‘parental space’. You never know if you don’t ask.”
But when should you definitely think about staying out of the way at a party?
“The older your child gets the more they will have their own views, and there is inevitably going to come a time when they want to assert their independence, and they will let you know,” says Naomi.
“At this point, just remember to check what adults are present at the party and what their rules are. I remember once picking up some 13 year olds from a party, one of whom was walking unsteadily.
“I discovered that the family had thought it was OK to allow them alcohol, so long as they were supervised, and I hadn’t thought to ask. So, once again, you never know if you don’t ask.”
Here are some of the key words that came up when we asked parents about this topic…
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