The other day, our little guy was begging me to see a PG-13 movie. He is only 8, so my immediate response was, "No way." But, then I thought about how I allowed him to watch Revenge of the Sith, which was also PG-13. (Like many boys his age, he's a die-hard Star Wars fan.)
This was the first week of school for many, which means another year older for the kids, who'll soon be pushing for more independence. So where do we draw the line in order to stay consistent? And how do you know when your child is ready, or mature enough?
What are your ages and stages for letting your kids stay home alone? Go for sleepovers? Bike to a friend's house, or take public transportation un-chaperoned? And, if you have more than one child, are you consistent when applying your age limits?
Our Senior Editorial Director, Felice, just faced this dilemma with her 10-year-old son. Felice and her kids live in a quiet, upscale neighborhood about a mile from downtown Boston, but too close for comfort to the universities and major arteries. While her younger daughter is still in extended day through her school, Felice was nervous about letting her son turn "latchkey" for another two years (Safe Kids USA urges parents not to leave any child under 12 years old home alone.)
Luckily, she found a happy solution through Care.com: a thirty-something "minder," who can be her son's surrogate "older brother," picking him up at school, hanging out with him for a few hours, and driving him to sports practice, all while not making her son feel like he's in need of a babysitter.
Check out these topics and sources for more information, or join the conversation by posting a comment! We'd love to hear your experiences and your "rules of thumb" for ages and stages with your own kids (or those you care for.)
Latchkey Kids / Staying Home Alone
While SafeKids.org urges parents not to leave any child under 12 years old home alone, many of us do allow our children to go latchkey for a few hours between school and the end of our workdays, or when we need to run errands. For each of us, it's a subjective and deeply personal choice that we make as parents based on the resourcefulness, maturity, and comfort levels of our own kids.
If you do decide to let your child stay home alone, go over these safety tips from the National Crime Prevention Council (home of McGruff the Crime Dog) with them first:
- Be discreet: Don't let anyone know that you're home alone.
- Lock up: Learn how to properly secure your home so you can get out, but no one can get in.
- Know the numbers: Review the emergency contact list and know how and who to call in case of an emergency. Choose a nearby neighbor as a "safe house."
- Communicate: Check in with your parents when you get home, and call for permission before leaving to go to the park, biking with friends, or to another friend's home.
- Be alert: If something looks suspicious when you get home, like a broken window or the front door is wide open, don't go inside. Go to your safe house.
Check out this MSNBC article with Dr. Ruth Peters, one of America's favorite advice columnists, a regular contributor to The Today Show, and a clinical psychologist by training, for more tips on raising latchkey kids.
Slumber parties (or sleepovers) are as American as apple pie, and just as hard to do really well. According to AZCentral.com, home of The Arizona Republic newspaper, slumber parties are most popular among kids 8 to 14 years old, although they can begin at younger ages and stretch out until college.
So, how do you know when your kids are ready to sleep over at a friend's house? And what should you ensure before they go?
- Start with family members. Your children will be more comfortable at their cousins' house, or with their grandparents, than at another family's home, allowing them to ease into sleeping apart from you. It also allows them to learn to shake up their nighttime routines.
- Know your child. Some kids are ready for sleepovers earlier than others--there isn't one true age to begin hosting or sending your kids off to slumber parties. Make sure that they are polite and respectful enough to abide by another family's rules, and that they are confident enough to make it through the night without your support.
- Know yourself. How comfortable are you with your child sleeping over at another home? Make sure to do your homework before the night of the event, ensuring that the other parents will be home, confirming details about activities, any group excursions, and timing for pick-ups in the morning. Review "the rules" and emergency information with the other parents, and make sure you trust them and their judgment.
What are your family's rules, ages and stages for allowing kids to stay home alone? Slumber parties? Biking to a friend's house un-chaperoned, or taking public transportation?
Share them with the Care.com community by posting a comment!