Oct 29, 2018

Dr. Gellner: When are school age kids able to stay home by themselves? I'll talk about preteens at home on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kids Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Back to school time doesn't just mean parents going out and buying new backpacks and pencils, but also time to think about where kids will be before and after school hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in August recommending that elementary and middle aged school children still require adult supervision during those times.

As a parent, I get it, that's hard to do sometimes, especially as kids get older and the options for after school get less. For many kids, once they get to be double digits, especially if they start middle school around 11, parents think that they can stay home by themselves. And in some cases, that's okay depending on that child's maturity level, how safe the neighborhood is, are there adults around that the child could reach out to in case of an emergency, is there a way for a child to touch base with the parent to let them know they're home?

Some parents have the luxury of having another family member or a friend take care of their child. In these cases, parents need to stress that these caregivers need to follow the parent's rules about schedules, discipline, and homework. Kids are sneaky and they will try to get away with breaking those rules if they're being watched by somebody other than mom and dad.

If your child goes to an after-school program, make sure that the program has a good number of staff to take care of the children in the program and also make sure that they have a place your child can do their homework. Staff also need to meet state certification regulations for dealing with health issues, emergencies, and the facility itself needs to be inspected and approved as safe.

When it comes to homework, be sure that your child knows homework always comes first. Stress good study habits and make sure they have enough time available to do it, especially if they are involved in extracurricular activities. They should have a quiet place to do their homework as well, free of distractions like the TV and other electronic devices.

The bottom line is everyone needs to be on the same page, your child who needs to understand the importance of getting school work done and playtime comes later if they are home by themselves, after-school providers who need to be supportive of what each child needs and honor the request of the parents, and you as the parent, who needs to be able to set down these firm guidelines and make sure they are followed to ensure that your growing preteen or teen and those who are in charge of them, when you can't be, understand those expectations.

Announcer: Have a question about a medical procedure? Want to learn more about a health condition? With over 2,000 interviews with our physicians and specialists, there's a pretty good chance you'll find what you want to know. Check it out at thescoperadio.com.

For Patients