Latch key children

I was never one eventhough my mother was a widow when she was in her 40s. And I pray my kids will not have to be too.

Once in a while, my kids’ friends who are latchkey children will drop by. There is something sad about it. They have all the freedom. Creature comforts. A cool handphone, broadband at home, ability to go everywhere. Not required to return home until they feel like it. A maid at their mercies.

I do not know if these latch key children enjoy their status. I do not know if they gleefully smirk when they are in my house. Listening to their friends (i.e. my kids) being nagged by the mother. I do not know if they feel envious or relieved.

I never ask. I also never ask my kids if they prefer to be in their friends’ shoes. Because I know that children, unless they are way past 17 years old ought not to be left alone at home. No matter what the reason is. I know some parents have no choice. But most parents do have a choice.

These parents that I am talking about are those who are in pursuit of more and more money. With the false belief that money is the best they can offer their kids. This is so wrong. Time is most important. Being there for them when they return from a hard’s day school.


Getting their meals ready. Providing a listening ear. Just chatting and being together.

Many parents will probably leave their younger children at daycare centres. Which is a better alternative. But when a child reach secondary school, they probably think that it is safe for the child to be alone at home. At the age of 12/13 years, they are most easily influenced by the internet, TV, video games and peers.

Here’s something I found on Canadian Child & Family website:

According to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a well known professor of pediatrics and writer, “right through the teen years, youngsters desperately need the supervision of loving adults. They need a responsible person who cares about them to greet them after school and say “how was your day?” They need an adult present to offset peer pressure and to put limits on exploration into such things as matches, inappropriate TV, or in the case of teenagers, drugs, sex and the liquor cabinet.”

Latch key children. Were you one of them? Does it affect you in a negative or positive way? Do you think there is a ‘safe’ age when children can be left alone at home while you are at work?

18 thoughts on “Latch key children

  1. I was left alone in my house since Standard 2. No baby-sitter. Both of my parents work. But I still got the freedom to do anything I want. I have to wake up early, and then do everything by my own. Latchkey children are ought to be more independent, ONLY IF they (latchkey children) understand it.

  2. Mr Kiasi – Really? You do that? Wah…I really respect you and your parents. You mean you did not surf porn sites too much until forget to go to school? LOL! But really, thank you for giving me that confidence that latch key children DO grow up fine, IF given the proper guidance. One of this days, maybe you can share how you manage.

  3. auntie lilian, u no need to work but a lot of mother have to work ma. ;p

    being forced by condition, economy and so on of reason mar.


  4. auntie lilian, u no need to work but a lot of mother have to work ma. ;p

    being forced by condition, economy and so on of reason mar.

    they boh huat one, u know..


  5. me latchkey children also since young. kiasi was true about the independent part, but because of that i think i lacked intimacy with my mom, and especially my dad, because he works outstation all the time, only at home a few days a month. So, now study abroad living alone, whenever my mom calls me, i got nothing much to chat with her, everytime she calls, i know it’ll be the same sets of questions, how’s my study, how’s my financial, and that’s all, less than 5 minutes then it ends. And the interval we make calls to each other get longer and longer in between them, first were once a week, later, once a month, now only called up once a few months. I know this is terrible, and I have to admit it’s quite sad to say it myself that I am not a good son, for not calling them frequently. It’s just that I don’t feel close to them at all, calling them was as awkward as it can be. sad, but true.

  6. I guess my situation is unique. My parents were divorced and since young I’ve always been with my mother. She works as a housemaid and I basically stayed at the houses where she would work. So every mornng at 5am she’d be up and early to work in the kitchen. I’d wake up around 7am and go to school without seeing her sometimes because she’s in the house cleaning. I’d come home and see her during dinner time but most of the time she’d be inside the house working.

    Ironic really because we both stay under the same roof yet I can do whatever I want and I’m not under her supervision most of the time. I don’t really qualify as a latchkey child and yet I seem to fall under that ranking somewhere and somehow.

    But things turned out fine. For me, I think its not how much time u spend with your kids really. It’s more of the quality of the moments you do spend with your kids. My mom never forgot to drive it into my life that she was my mom. No matter how busy, she’d still be there for me. At 23, I have come to realise that very much.


    p.s. love your site. You rock!

  7. I change my career to spend mopre time with my child and end up playing host, den mother, free boarding house to my childs latchkey friends. O yea, the angmoh mothers here care more about quality time with their husbands rather than their children.
    We have one who would rather invite herself to our place than join her parents on their cruise.

  8. I didn’t get much freedom till I was in Form 3 – that was when Dad was too ill to work and Mom went to work. I remember I took over the chores when mom went to work – cooking for dad & cleaning the house. Learnt to be independent. My first part-time job was at 15 … I still have that part time job. Good extra income hehe šŸ™‚

  9. I think it is the values that you instill in yr kids. If you brought them up fine, you do not have to worry not to trust them. I guess, 10-20 years ago, it is still okay if teenagers stay at home unsupervised. But in this new millenium, i think adult supervision is still required. My eldest is only 8 yrs old now, and I do not know how I am going to cope in another 5 years time coz currently he is staying in the nursery after school and go to agama school in the afternoon (2.30-5.15).

  10. I don’t think I qualify since I have many elder bros and sis but then I was independant from a very young age ie learned to cook etc since mum was no longer around and dad had to work to take care of us financially so there was never anyone home for me when I got back from school. We catered food so I ate whatever was available and if I got tired of it, I just cooked some instant noodles or fried an egg. There was no one to breathe down my neck or nag me to do my homework (the way many parents do to their children nowadays). I just did my own homework without supervision and studied without supervision as well whenever there was any test or exams coming up. Apart from the earlier teenage years unhappiness and lacking in self confidence which resulted in me being very quiet because there was no one around to listen to me, I think I turned out just fine. So I agree that if a parent can afford to spend the time with their children they should. Financial pursuit is important for an improved lifestyle perhaps but it will never replace time. I would be happy if we made do with less but spent more time being happy as a family instead. Hehe. So long, I should write my own post and trackback to you.

  11. Given that the term “Latch-key Kids” means those having parents who work full time as professionals but not physically around as parents, I think these kids turn out okay in spite of their precadiment. They may not be totally happy with their condition (but who is?), but given the proper guide-lines by parents who are accessible via cellphone, I believe they could turn out fine and be more independent than some of their “totally parented” counter-parts.

    From my observations there are kids who, in spite of having a parent around all day, turn out worse because of their parent’s attitude. The parent would spend time gambling or gossiping, couldn’t care less about kids’ bad behavior, and defend their kids from whatever complaints from school or other parents (they don’t care if the complaints are legitimate or not). This gives kids the signal that they can get away with anything. These kids eventually go for gambling, smoking or running riot on their motobikes in the neighborhood (without licences).

    I’m not supporting the practice of letting kids fend for themselves. My meaning is, what parents do, how parents think and behave, do rub off on kids in a big way whether they are conscious of it or not.

  12. I was one of those who stayed alone at home. Mum’s got to work, and Dad is usually outstation. She does come home daily though, and we have dinners together.

    But I like being alone. I can read my books without getting interrupted, do my homework and listen to my music. And I think I turn out pretty okay. Maybe it has to do with self-confidence.

  13. Hi Lilian, (love your blog, BTW!)

    Was never one of those latchkey children. Although my parents worked, I had wonderful grandparents who lived with us and so I always had someone (if not my parents) to come home to. I was never left home alone until I was 16 or so and it was only for awhile.

    That, in a way, has helped greatly in family bonding. Whilst others looked mainly to their peers for advice/fun, I was always assured that my parents can do the same and can accept things from my perspective.

    Now, I do get my own alone-time at home and I’ve come to appreciate that lots but I couldn’t do it for long – I love having people around me, and I love my family heaps.

    Your boys are very lucky to have you at home… even if it’s just to listen to them gripe about that mean teacher, or someone to pester for the latest PSP.

    In my opinion though, it is more of a “job” being at home and being a mother than having to go out and earn all that moolah (although it is neccessary)… and I quote Maria Shriver who says, “Motherhood… 24/7 on the front lines of humanity.”

  14. Debbie – Hey, thanks. And that quote? It is so right. It is the heaviest responsibility.

    sexymama – Back then, you don’t have internet and webcam. Now, the kids have that plus 13 yrs old are already talking about phak tor. Tell me how? I don’t mean my son but his friends.

    LC Teh – Yeah, giving the right upbringing is the most important thing. Sometimes, I see those low income families who bring their children along to their stalls etc. I think that is far better than leaving them to run around with strangers.

    MG – I think having older siblings around is good company. But these children are only child or have a younger sibling who is at the nursery.

    moneyminded – Actually, the first few years is less challenging than the pre-teens and teenage years. By then, if the bonding is not there, parents are going to face very tough situations.

    jojo – I guess though it was hard, it certainly made you a much tougher adult ya?

    romantic – So you are also a half-way home like mine? I am having a breather lately ‘cos I do not allow my 9 yrs old to bring his friends back to my home (we are just next to the school). He is mixing with the scariest kids around. I told him he can only bring his friends back only when these kids are 11-12 yrs old. ‘Cos they loved my home so much, they intentionally missed their school bus! I don’t want to be responsible for them.

    andy and catherine – Thank you for sharing that. I am sure many parents who read this will know that the parents role is tough, having to juggle between providing food and also to find time to do their best. Whatever, with both your experiences, at least I know that it is not so bad to be latch key kids.

    SK – I know la…but you should see the number of kids who have to hang around school compounds from the time they finished school (around 1pm) till 5-6pm when their parents come to pick them from school. They may not be latch key at home but even worse, hanging around at the school. It is very pitiful, you know? Under the hot sun, no place to bath etc. So, I do wonder why the parents can’t find a better solution. For me, I sold off my nice landed property on the hill to stay here, next to my sons’ school. Because last time, at one point, my children were latch key for a few weeks (when I was taking care of Vincent).

    So, ultimately, what I wanted to say is – parents ought to do their best to see to the basic needs of the children, see that they have a proper place to past time, know where they are, aware of the danger they may encounter etc.

  15. We were latch key children and we didn’t roam around (wouldn’t be latch key anymore if that’s the case :o)). In fact we were told not to go out nor let anyone in, not even the electric/water meter reader (houses used to have meters installed inside the compound then).

  16. If that time got Internet and Webcam, lagi more I want to stay at home alone!!! šŸ™‚

    Some of my friends that time also phak-tor already. But it wasn’t interesting to me then. All I wanted then was to rule the world.

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