First of all, find out which adults (neighbors you trust) will be at home during those gap hours. Make sure you have a conversation with them beforehand and ask if it's okay for you son to know they are there for emergency back up. Make a list complete with all the phone numbers and post it in a prominent space. Review and write down the rules that apply when you are not at home. Try a few test runs during the summer. Leave your child for a few hours at a time during the day and see what questions or concerns might arise.
The after-school period before parents get home from work is classically a very dangerous time for children and teens. It is the most common time frame when teens become pregnant. It is a common time for drug use. Frankly, it is very dangerous. If children are too old for aftercare, I encourage parents to enroll their kids in sports programs, or at least prepare your child to do middle or high school sports so that they are not unattended during their teen years. Or, encourage or prepare you child to enter the work force/get an after-school job. Perhaps have him or her do an internship with someone that may hire them after school when he or she is older. For example, be a mother's helper to a family with young kids, with the hope that this will grow into a babysitting position at a later date. At very least, give your child a list of responsibilities that must be completed by the time you get home from work-- homework, chores, etc.
Yes, idle time is a dangerous thing...
I would also have a strict rule about friends who are allowed to come over during that time. Because tweens/teens tend to have bad ideas together.
These days there are still issues with unsupervised media use. Will your child have access to porn during the after-school time frame? Even if he isn't interested in porn yet, he will be soon.
Also, when you start the school year with your child home alone, I'd set up some regular check-in times during the first few months until there's a routine established.
This is a tough situation. If you have a wonderful child care provider, who you trust and your child adores, you need to go to any and all lengths to protect that relationship.
Are you in a position to offer to pay her more if she stops caring for the other child? I know it sounds terrible to suggest, but you can't really control another kid's behavior.
Or find a new childcare provider... it wouldn't be the first time a parent pulls a child out of a child care situation due to difficult peers.
If the situation does not improve in a couple of months, you have to tell your child care provider that while you love her dearly, you can't keep your child in a situation like this. It may encourage her to talk more firmly with the other child's parents. She won't want to lose you as a client.
I agree, Aisha, but I wouldn't throw in the towel yet until you have a chance to talk with your childcare provider and allow the other child's parents to try to address the behaviors.
I agree. It may just be a phase. But it's a very difficult thing.
I know there are 12-14 year-olds who are allowed unsupervised outings, but I'm just not on board with that. I say 15 or 16.
I would never consider leaving a child unattended under the age of 12, but to me this is a bare minimum. Most of the time kids really need to be supervised until much older. I agree with Aisha-- maybe around 15 or 16 depending on the child.
That probably may not make you the most popular parent. But, I think it's in the best interest of the child.
Even the best, most mature, well-behaved, good students can make very poor choices as teens and tweens. We know that the white matter of the brain doesn't finish maturing until around age 20 or 21. This is why young adults are classically risk-takers, why they do stupid things, and why they are ideal to send to war.
Supervising your children doesn't mean that you don't trust them. It means that they may need a guide, and you want to be available to them when they aren't sure what to do.
Also, I don't think parents need to hover when tweens want to hang out. They should just be in the vicinity and within earshot, at times.
When I was 18 years old I hitchhiked. I did it again when I was 21. I got into cars with strange men, alone. Really. Looking back on it, I'm not sure how I could make such a stupid decision. I was an honors student at a very competitive college. I had a summer internship doing neuroscience research at the NIH. Yet I was dumb enough to hitchhike. There is this idea of false safety that is common among young adults, who take unnecessary risks. This is why they need a guide, a parent. Not because we don't trust them.
Even young people with big responsibilities, such as soldiers, have strong supervision, rules, and leadership. Older soldiers, who have more mature frontal lobes of their brain, do the supervision.
We all have made choices as teenagers that we shudder to imagine our children doing the same. I'm SO GLAD you weren't murdered and left in a ditch when you hitchhiked, Dr. B. :)
Many very smart and accomplished adults had no idea what they wanted to study or become when they were teenagers!
There are two philosophies of why we go to college: 1) to discover yourself, explore the world, and then, eventually, decide how you want to spend the rest of your life and 2) to gain the skills and experience you need to succeed in the workplace. You and your child need to decide where you sit on this question. Some people will take time off to have more "discover yourself time." There are many ways to discover yourself, and school is only one of them.
You should suggest that she take classes she's never taken before in high school, to think about which subjects she enjoys the most and looks forward to attending, to try different internships, to take an aptitude test at the guidance office.
I spent most of my college and graduate school years discovering what I loved to study, learning how to think and write. I also made sure I graduated in time and worked a job every summer and did internships, so I would have some marketable skills upon graduating.
It's possible to do both..explore new ideas and interests and gain skills that will make you employable. Help her realize that it's not an either-or.
Consider internships, shadowing opportunities, and employment opportunities. You often have to be quite forward to get these opportunities. Have your child ask someone if he or she can shadow them in the work place for a day, to learn more about his or her profession. My husband spend half of college trying to be a vet, then spent 3 days shadowing a vet and changed his mind.
My first baby was also jaundiced and spent some time under the lights. My second baby was jaundiced even more, so we had to bring him home with a light bed.
He had to stay strapped in the light bed for a majority of the time for the first few days until his bilirubin levels got under control. It was kind of terrible, but I kept reminding myself that there are much worse conditions that can afflict newborns. We're lucky that jaundice is easily treated.
Jaundice occurs when the immature liver of a newborn cannot break down dead red blood cells quickly enough. Phototherapy helps break down the substances that the liver cannot metabolize, and is an easy and non-invasive treatment. There are many things that can make jaundice worse, what we call risk factors for jaundice. It has a lot to do with your baby's blood type, and if your baby was born prematurely. Some of these risk factors can be inherited. So, just because your first child had jaundice does not mean that your second child will, also. Your pediatrician or even the nurses in the hospital will be very happy to discuss this with you in more detail.
Thank you everyone for joining us this week! We had many questions we could not get to this time, but we will add them to the list for our next chat on June 4. Hope to see you then!