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  • 11/19/2009

When It's Just You After School (Part1)

latchkey kids

Did you ever see the movie Home Alone? The lead character, a young boy, gets left behind while his parents go on vacation. Now, that's not too realistic, but plenty of kids are home alone after school until their parents get home.

The boy in the movie had many different feelings about being alone. Sometimes he was happy about having the house to himself. Sometimes he was lonely and missed his family. Sometimes he was afraid. And sometimes he was just plain bored.

Latchkey Kids

Are you home alone after school? No one knows how many kids are home after school without an adult, but they know the number is in the millions. Kids who regularly take care of themselves are sometimes called ‘latchkey children.’

This nickname got its start in the 1940s, during World War II. The men were away at war, so many women had to take jobs in factories to keep the country going. With both parents away, school kids went home to empty houses.

A latchkey kid wore a house key around his or her neck and this key opened the front door or latch.

Today, it's common for both parents to work or for kids to live with just one parent, so a new generation of kids is spending some time alone after school. A lot of schools now have after-school programs, but some don't, and in some cases, families may not be able to afford the extra expense.

Ground Rules

So you and your mom or dad have decided you're mature enough to take care of yourself after school. Every weekday, you'll come home, let yourself in, and then what? Good question! This is why you'll need to set up some rules - before you're home alone.

Some families put up a list of rules where everyone can see them, like on the refrigerator door. Other families write out a contract and have each member sign it, saying they agree to the rules. Or a family might just go over the rules out loud. But whatever method you use, there are a lot of questions to talk about, like:

Should you call mom or dad as soon as you get home?

Are you allowed to watch TV, DVDs, videos, or play computer games? If so, which ones and for how long?

Should homework be done first, even before chores?

Can friends come over? If so, how many?

What can you eat if you want a snack?

Can you go outside, and if so, where?

Which appliances can be used? (Microwave, computer, etc.)

Which chores need to be done and by when?

Should your parent call home just before leaving work each day? For example, would it help to have a heads-up in time to finish any last-minute chores before they arrive?

Once you've decided on the rules, you and your parent may find it helpful to make a schedule. That way, you'll know what's expected of you each day.

A schedule might look like this:

• 3:30-3:40 - Call Mom or Dad.

• 3:40-4:00 - Change clothes and have a snack.

• 4:00-4:45 - Do homework.

• 4:45-5:30 - FREE TIME!

• 5:30 - Set the table for dinner.

• 5:45 - Mom or Dad is home.

 kid watching tv

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Source: kidshealth.org

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