Children in Self-Care
During your child's school years, you will eventually consider the possibility of your child caring for him or herself instead of being cared for by others. Many children take care of themselves after school, in the evening, on weekends, or during school vacations- whenever a parent or other adult cannot be at home with them. In fact, all children will eventually have to take care of themselves as part of their maturing process. The information and preparation they need to do this successfully is the same, whether they are 11, 13, or 17.
Self-care can be a positive and rewarding experience for children who are ready for it and are properly prepared. It can help them develop independence and learn responsibility. And, it can give them confidence in their own abilities. However, if a child is not mature enough, self- care can be an anxiety-producing and dangerous situation.
Assessing your child's readiness for self-care
In deciding whether a child is ready for self- care, parents must consider several factors, starting with the child's maturity level. There is no magic age at which children develop the maturity and good sense needed to stay alone. Some states have laws specifying the minimum age at which a child can legally stay alone.
Others do not specify an age but consider the child's maturity. Check with your state child welfare agency about the law in your state. If your state does not specify an age, as a general guideline, most children before age 11 lack the decision-making skills necessary for self-care.
When assessing your child's readiness for self-care, consider his or her physical, mental, social, and emotional maturity. Ask yourself the questions on the following evaluation form.
Signs of readiness for self-care
The following checklist (Table 1) will help you evaluate your child's readiness. Check "yes" or "no" for each item.
Is your child physically ready to stay alone?
Is your child mentally ready to stay alone?
|3.||Is your child socially ready to stay alone?
Does your child...
|4.||Is your child emotionally ready to stay alone?
Does your child...
If you can answer "yes" to most of the above questions, your child is showing signs of the physical, mental, social, and emotional maturity needed for self-care. Your child needs to be capable in each of these four areas before he or she will be safe and secure staying home alone.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Florida. © 2008 University of Florida.
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