12 Tips for Parents of Latchkey Kids

latchkeyFor many households, after-school childcare is not feasible for a variety of reasons. In fact, the 2010 U.S. census reveals that, at one time or another during the week, up to one third of all school age children go back to an empty home after classes end. If your child is one of the five to seven million latchkey kids in America, there are some things you can do to make the experience less stressful for both you and your child. Preparing for time spent home alone is of vital importance, while setting and enforcing a set of predetermined rules is critical for your child’s safety and your peace of mind.

  1. Apprise Yourself of the Laws in Your Area – Laws governing the age when a child can legally be left home alone vary from state to state. Before deciding to leave your child alone after school, it’s imperative that you check to see if your child is of legal age to do so. There are also laws determining the age a child needs to be before he is allowed to care for other children, as well as how long he’s legally allowed to be without adult supervision. It’s crucial for you to be aware of these laws if you are planning on your children being home alone.
  2. Make Sure Your Child is Emotionally Mature Enough to Look After Himself – How your child accepts being a latchkey kid depends largely upon his temperament and age. Younger children just don’t have the ability to handle difficult decisions that may arise during your absence, and even older ones who aren’t quite as mature as their peers can struggle to deal with life as a latchkey kid. Know your child’s capabilities before you ask him to assume such a heavy load of responsibility.
  3. Prepare Your Child – Kids will handle the situation differently on an individual level, depending on their particular temperament and skill level. You can prepare your child for this new step towards independence by fostering a sense of maturity and helping him learn the skills he’ll need.  Praise your child for a task done well and offer feedback regarding things he could have done differently when he makes mistakes. This instills a sense of confidence in the child and helps him learn through firsthand experience.
  4. Get Your Child Involved in the Rule-Making Process – Many parents will create a long list of rules for kids to obey, and then wonder why they have so much trouble getting the kids to follow them. If you sit down with your kids and enlist their help in making the rules, you may find that those rules carry more weight due to the child’s sense of ownership. Often, kids will come up with rules that you would never even think of, so be sure that you’re not neglecting his opinion when you draw up a game plan.
  5. Discuss Home Safety Issues – Talk with your child about safety around the house and quiz him on the ways he would handle a series of hypothetical emergencies to ascertain just how much he knows about dealing with scary situations. There are certain things they should know without a moment’s pause, like how to dial 911, where the first aid kit is kept and where to find the list of emergency phone numbers if it is not already programmed into the phone.
  6. Never Assume Your Child “Knows Better” – Revisit rules on a regular basis, and check in with your child to determine how things are going with the latchkey arrangement regularly while he’s alone. Caring for himself is a large responsibility for a kid, so don’t assume that they know better than to make mistakes that seem obvious to you. This is especially true for younger children who have little experience looking after themselves. If your child does something wrong, find out why the disobedience occurred and  be sure to address the issue in a manner that will get your point across without being overly harsh. Sometimes, kids really do have a good reason for making what seems to be a bad decision. It’s important that, despite a serious transgression, she still feels she can come to you with anything.
  7. Get to Know Your Neighbors – If you don’t already know your neighbors, now is the time to get to know them. Ideally, you will develop a relationship with the neighbors long before you need them to watch out for your child. Find neighbors with whom you can build trust and feel comfortable with as backup check points for your child. You are not asking them to babysit, but you are enlisting their help should a serious emergency arise.
  8. Lock the Door – Impress upon your children the importance of locking the door behind them and not answering it under any circumstance unless they hear otherwise from you. Kids alone at home can be easy targets for predators, and you never know who may be watching.
  9. Check In – Open lines of communication are essential to the success of a latchkey arrangement. Have the kids check in with you upon arriving home. Everyone knows what to expect when the schedule is set. This also means that you will need to check in with the kids if your schedule should change even slightly. Stopping at the grocery store could cause a panic if your kids can’t reach you by phone, especially if you’re later than they expect. Just as you want them to keep you aware of any changes in the schedule, you need to do the same with them.
  10. Set Up Parental Controls – Parents need to be aware of online predators, especially if their children will be spending large chunks of unsupervised time at home in the afternoon. Set up rules governing computer use in your absence and make sure that all possible parental control settings are activated. You may want to limit online activity to homework until you get home, but it’s still wise to make sure that there are at least some filtering options in place if kids can access a computer while they’re not being supervised.
  11. Research Community Programs – If your area has community programs, such as Boys and Girls Clubs or community recreational programs, consider making use of these programs. Many times the programs are free or low cost. This will give your child something constructive to do and she won’t need to spend so much time alone in the afternoons until you return in the evening.
  12. Look In to Extracurricular Activities – Some schools will offer programs for latchkey kids for a few hours before or after school that can take up a bit of time, keeping them safe and supervised for a bit longer during the day. Enrolling your child in such a program is particularly helpful for younger kids who may be ready for short stints at home each afternoon, but aren’t quite prepared to spend several hours alone.

10 Reasons Kids Get Jealous of a New Baby

A new baby is cause for celebration. All the planning and preparations for the new little one can be a lot of fun as showers are given and gifts received. Your world certainly gets somewhat topsy-turvy and especially so if you already have a child or two. If this is your second child, you may be surprised to find that Number One is beginning to show signs of jealousy. Consider these 10 reasons why your child may be jealous of a new baby.

  1. It’s a natural feeling – Even if you know you have done everything possible to prepare your firstborn for the arrival of the second baby, at some point jealousy will rear its ugly head. This is a natural response and if handled correctly can be managed proactively.
  2. The level of attention is decreasing – Firstborn siblings are used to being the center of attention and the center of their parents’ lives. Now that attention is beginning to shift away and depending on the age of the child it can feel rather traumatic.
  3.  Number One may feel left out – As activities gear up for the new baby’s arrival, it is easy for Number One to feel excluded. Parents often prepare a nursery; there are baby showers to attend; shopping is focused on baby things and the spotlight on the firstborn begins to fade.
  4. The old routine has been interrupted – You probably had a certain flow of things before the new baby came along, and now that flow has been interrupted. This can cause anxiety for the older sibling who has become used to a certain routine.
  5. It’s not the fun it was touted to be – Many parents prepare older siblings for the new baby by telling them they will finally have someone to play with. Unfortunately, the older sibling is thinking of a ready-made playmate, so when the baby comes home and can’t play catch, or tag or any other game AND takes up all the time and attention of Mom and Dad, Number One may start to feel jealousy taking over.
  6. Cleaning up after baby – At first it may seem a privilege to help clean up baby’s little messes. But after a while, the older sibling may begin to feel that something is wrong with the picture where baby gets to make the mess without any consequences. After all, when Number One makes a mess the expectation is that it will be cleaned up by Number One. Jealousy over Baby’s honored position of no responsibility can crop up.
  7. All the pretty toys – New babies are often inundated with new toys. From crib mobiles to stuffed animals to books and other things they may not use for a while, the new baby receives all kinds of new things. Many times older siblings don’t get much of anything. For youngsters this is grounds for the green eyed monster to really get going.
  8. Babies don’t have to be quiet – It may seem unfair that this baby gets to cry all night long, but Number One has to be quiet all the time. After being disturbed enough times, Number One may get a little jealous about the disparity of quiet time.
  9. Babies are so cute! – Everyone always talks about how cute the baby is and few seldom notice Number One’s cuteness anymore. Not only that, but when Number One does those goofy little things to remind folks, all that usually happens is that Number One either gets ignored or a reprimand for acting silly. No wonder Number One is jealous of Baby Cutie Pie!
  10. The “replacement kid” – Of course you are not replacing Number One with Number Two, but Number One may not know that. Feelings of resentment and jealousy can easily set in if for any reason than that the older sibling has the misperception that this new addition is a replacement kid. You may have to work harder in the love and affection department to reassure an older sibling that this is not the case.

Many older siblings will have some leanings toward jealousy at one point or another as time progresses with the new baby. Rest assured that these feelings are natural and with patience, love and compassion you can help your child overcome such feelings.

10 Reasons Kids Don’t Need Pets

Many times children feel like they need to have a pet, but in reality they want one, not need one.  Kids have trouble distinguishing between wants and needs, in fact many adults have trouble with that too.  Before you get a pet for your child, consider 10 reasons why getting one may not be a great idea.

  1. Not ready to care for one:  Many parents feel like having a pet will help teach their kids to be more responsible and to think of someone besides themselves.  It’s all about me when you are a child and kids have great intentions when they ask for a pet, but most often those intentions don’t pan out.
  2. Could cause allergic reactions: A large number of folks are allergic to pet dander.  Is there a way around it?  Yep.  It just depends on what extreme measures you want to take.  You can put in a fancy and expensive air filtration system in your home.  You can get one of those hideous hairless cats.  You could also buy and take medications for your allergy symptoms.
  3. Animals could create an unhealthy environment: Granted this doesn’t happen to every household, but there have been many cases where people took in strays and then for whatever reason weren’t able to take care of the pets properly.  The feces of the animals ended up getting everywhere and causing an unsafe environment for children.
  4. Kids are too busy to spend time with them: Kids think they want or need a pet so that they can play with them, but then the kids are never home.  They come home after school to grab a snack and then to take off to play at a friend’s house.  Then they come home in time to eat supper and run out the door to some sort of activity.  By the time they get home they work on homework and go to bed.  Is it really necessary to have a pet when the only time your child can play with it is on the weekends and during the summer?
  5. Has the extra money:  Let’s face it, pets are expensive.  If you want a pure breed you are going to have to shell out big bucks, but even if you have a pet given to you there are expenses that will come along with it.  Dogs and cats need to go to the vet to get their annual shots.  Then they need heart worm and flea preventative medications.  What if you just want a gerbil or a fish?  The bedding has to be changed and the pet needs to eat something.  Then there are toys and other things that just add up.
  6. The parent gets stuck with the work: Someone has to feed it, water it, take it for a walk if it’s a dog or clean out it’s cage if it’s a smaller pet.  Kids say they will do these things, but it rarely happens.
  7. Hassle when you leave town: Who’s going to take care of this pet when you want to go on vacation?  Are you stuck staying at home now because you have a pet?  Dogs need to be boarded or you need someone to come over and take them out and feed and water them daily.  Small pets, like gerbils, can go several days with a bowl full of food and a water bottle, but even they need attention after about 4 days.
  8. Imposing on friends: So if you don’t want to pay someone to take care of your pet then you are imposing on your friends or relatives.  Is this their pet?  Why do they need to take care of your pet?  Your kids’ friends are too young and would you trust them to come over and go into your house and take care of the pet while you are gone?
  9. Liability issues: What if the pet bites someone?  That person could sue you for a lot of money.  Is that kind of thing covered under your homeowner’s policy?  You might want to find out the answer to that question before you think about getting a pet.
  10. More time on homework: What child couldn’t use more time on their homework.  If you had a pet your child would just be distracted and want to spend time with the pet and then their schooling could suffer.

While no one really needs a pet, they do bring great joy to those who have one. Be sure before getting a family pet you really examine the pros and cons and be sure you are making the right choice for your family.

10 Basic Ways to Prepare for the Baby’s Arrival

Preparing for a new baby can be fun, but it can also be stressful. Whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, pre-delivery jitters can affect even seasoned veterans. Forgotten bags, confusion and an empty cupboard can all be the results of a pregnancy-fogged brain.

Here are ten ways to prepare for the arrival of your little bundle of joy.

  1. Pack Your Bags – At the beginning of your ninth month, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag full of essentials for mom and a diaper bag just for baby’s belongings. Though your partner can always pick up forgotten items, it will cut into the time you spend getting acquainted with the newest member of your family as a unit.
  2. Buy and Install Your Car Seat –Many hospitals require infants to pass a car seat test prior to bringing their baby home. Others actually require a Certified Passenger Safety Technician check the installation before releasing the baby.
  3. Prepare Birth Announcements – If you know your child’s gender and have already chosen a name, you can prepare your birth announcement template ahead of time. Though you’ll have to add delivery details after the fact, these small steps can save time, which will certainly be at a premium after your child is born.
  4. Make Your Birth Plan – You’ve likely been weighing your birth options since your first trimester; now is the time to nail down your birth plan. Whether you’re opting for an all-natural, minimal intervention birth or plan to have an induction and an epidural, it’s best to discuss your wishes with your healthcare provider before those contractions start.
  5. Prepare Older Siblings – Introducing a new family member can be stressful for children; though they have a vague idea that you’ll be bringing a new baby home, it’s still a good idea to have a discussion about their role as an older sibling and what they should expect when the new baby comes home.
  6. Arrange For Extra Help – If you’re going to be hiring a nanny who specializes in newborns or inviting a family member for an extended visit to help out, it’s a good idea to hammer out the details of the plan as your due date approaches.
  7. Decide Who Will Be Attending the Birth– While there may be dozens of loved ones in the waiting room, deciding who will be attending the birth of your child is a very personal and potentially difficult decision. Your comfort and the comfort of your partner are the most important aspects of this decision; don’t allow yourself to be pressured by insistent loved ones if you’re not comfortable with their attendance.
  8. Attend Newborn Care Class – Parents-to-be with limited newborn experience might want to consider attending a newborn care class in order to prepare themselves and learn the basics. These courses are usually available at community centers; your midwife or obstetrician can provide you with contact information.
  9. Launder Clothing, Bedding and Towels – All of your newborn’s clothing, bedding and towels should be laundered with a fragrance-free detergent specially designed not to irritate their skin. Checking this chore off your list before bringing baby home is best; you’re not likely to have time after delivery.
  10. Stock Your Kitchen – As your due date nears, it’s a good idea to stock up on staple items. Preparing meals that are easily frozen and reheated is also a plus; neither you nor your partner is likely to feel like cooking in the first few weeks of parenthood.