Home Alone?

School’s almost out, and while many of us are rejoicing, some parents are facing the perennial quandary:  what to do with a young teen or pre-teen all day.  At what age are they ready to be left alone?    And when they are alone, how can you keep them from making bad choices?

Some 12- and 13-year-olds may be ready to stay alone all day, but many of them will tell you it’s scary being home without any adults in the house.  They’re aware of the danger of opening the door to strangers, and it’s easy to imagine those strangers lurking outside in the bushes, just waiting for the parent’s car to drive away.

Others may relish the freedom but be susceptible to temptation, especially when joined by a friend for the day, or when invited to join in shenanigans via text or Facebook.

And there are those who aren’t ready for the independence, who wouldn’t know what to do if the power went out or the stove caught fire.

If you have no other option than to leave your under-15-year-old home, try not to make it for 40 or 50 hours per week.  Look for alternatives, such as spending one or two days a week with a relative or a friend, or enrolling in a day camp of some sort.  At this age, there are many options for sports, drama, music, or religious camps in different price ranges.  There might even be volunteer opportunities at a nearby YMCA or Boys’/Girls’ Club.

Be clear about expectations when you’re not home, and don’t hesitate to take a power cord (to a video game system or computer modem), a cell phone, or a laptop/iPad/iPod Touch to work with you if you have to.  Consider setting parental controls to minimize usage time, or purchasing software that lets you see in real time what’s on your home computer, even from a remote location.

Summer break should be a time to relax, but just like any vacation, it takes some work to make it that way.