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Summer Care and Tweens

by Lori Sciame | May 16th, 2012 | Tweens
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School vacation looms on the horizon. What do your plan to do with your tween while you are stuck at work? Although he or she is not old enough to be left alone for hours on end, your tween probably still yearns for at least some independence. The question is, how do you make sure your child learns to take care of himself or herself while remaining safe?

First, you need to determine if your 11- or 12-year-old is mature enough to be left — even for a few hours. Some children feel comfortable being in the house alone at that age, while others do not. Also, some children will find safe things to do to keep themselves occupied, while others may engage in risky behaviors.

For instance, my oldest son loved to read and work on computer games at that age; therefore, he could be trusted to be alone for a few hours. On the other hand, my youngest daughter seemed to get into trouble endlessly at the same age. One summer morning I left her alone for only one hour, and in that time she decided to go to a neighbor’s garage sale by herself. The outcome? She came home with a too-large ladies’ fur jacket that cost $50.00. The entire amount in her piggy bank!

If you decide your child can handle the responsibility of being left alone for a short time, you then must set up a system of checking on him or her. For instance, you can have a set time, such as during your morning break, to text to touch base. Or if your child prefers, he or she could text you when they wake up, with the understanding that you will call if you do not hear by a certain time.

Next you must determine how to fill the rest of the day in a positive way. One suggestion is to hire a responsible college student to drive your child to swimming lessons, to friends’ houses, to the park, and the like. I have a friend with two tweens who is planning to do just that. One smart thing she did — ask her older friends if their college-age children needed a fun job carting kids around!

Another suggestion for filling summer days for your tween is to take advantage of local sports and nature camps. Each city usually has a recreation department that offers such activities for reasonable prices, and the local Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA’s usually have excellent program options as well.

If you are lucky enough to work close to your residence, you could even go home on your lunch hour and take your child to an afternoon activity. For many years I was able to leave my tweens in the morning, go home at 11:00 am to cook them lunch, take them to afternoon activities, then pick them up after work. Of course I felt exhausted from all of the running, but I also felt good. My tweens were learning independence while still being looked after.

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