it may seem early to think about what your children will do over summer vacation, but there aren't many weeks of school left. Yes, it's prom season and then high school graduation and all the parties to celebrate. But what will you do about the younger children in the family when the school bells cease for the year?
Children need supervision from caring adults who love them, share with them, create memories with them. It doesn't require constant activity. But the children need a safe environment at all times. And parents who work need to know their children are safe and sound while they are away. Word is that children over age 13 are not eligible for daycare center care while Mom and Dad work.
The Ohio State University Extension Service advises that, "There is no magic age at which children can stay home alone. What matters most is 1.) whether they are mature enough, 2.) they know how to respond in emergency situations, and 3.) they are willing to follow directions and rules. If your children are not comfortably self-sufficient in your absence, they are not ready to stay home alone."
Leaving your child alone is a big step. There are so many dangers come to a parent's mind when considering leaving a child home alone. Mom and Dad want to feel secure in the knowledge that they've made the right decision.
"Your child needs to feel good about being left home alone, feel confident in his/her ability to take care of him/herself, and be comfortable with limited social interaction," says the Extension Service. "Take cues from your child." If the child fears staying home alone, they aren't ready. When you think they are ready, you need to design a plan together. Talk to your child about house rules and expectations. Write down safety and emergency procedures. Make sure your child understands what to do. Make a list of play rules. Can they play outside? Specific times? Can they play with other kids in the neighborhood? What is "off limits"?
The children don't need to spend hours with video games and TV. You should have a list of activities for them. What are your rules about Internet and text messaging?
"Depending on the laws and child protective policies in your area," says the Child Welfare Information Gateway, "leaving a young child unsupervised may be considered neglect, especially if doing so places the child in danger."
Have a trial period. Leave your child alone while you are close to home to see how they manage. Act out possible situations to teach your child what to do. Check in with your child while you're away to see how things are going. Draw your child into conversations to find out how she or he feels about being home alone. Limit the time the child is home alone, even if he or she is mature enough to be home alone.
"Consider other options, such as programs offered by schools, community centers, youth organizations, or churches, to help keep your child busy and involved."
The objective of the Child Welfare Information Gateway is to protect children and strengthen families. You can learn more at http://www.childwelfare.gov.
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