Latch-Key Children Growing Problem for Working Families

The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia), November 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

Latch-Key Children Growing Problem for Working Families


YOU'VE probably read of recent cases where parents have left kids abandoned in cars, at hotels, casinos, or just even while shopping.

Because of the backlash, police are worried that parents will now resort to the less obvious ploy of locking their kids inside the house.

And whether we call them latch-key or car-key kids, it is a growing problem, not just for careless families like those reported recently, but for very caring families whose work commitments can't be timetabled in with the school bell.

What's more, there comes a time in every family with growing kids where teenagers don't want to go to friends, family, after-school programs, family-day care or neighbours and insist that they can "self care" with competence and confidence.

The good news is that research reviewed by the Institute of Family Studies found that self care can work well.

It seems that it all depends on the type of child, their age, the family, the length of time they're left alone, their training and the follow-up.

So if you're trying to weigh up what to do about the after-school care of your children, here are a few considerations in making the decision about self care:

1. Is the child physically able to

* look after himself

* operate safety equipment and

* manipulate locks.

2. Is the child emotionally mature enough to

* cope easily with being away from adults for the time required

* be able to handle unexpected situations without panicking and

* be able to follow the house rules even when unsupervised.

3. Is the child intellectually mature enough to

* understand, remember and carry out written instructions

* to solve problems sensibly and

* be able to take messages.

4. Is the child socially mature enough to

* get help when needed from neighbours or friends

* to understand who to turn to in case of accident or problem

* be willing to call for help even if it's their fault and

* be able to get along well enough with any other kids in the house. …

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