As parents send their kids back to school, they need to remember the school day includes the hours before and after classes, a leading pediatrician’s group says.
Children in grade school and middle school require supervision, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). An adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning, and to supervise them after they come home from school.
If another family member is taking care of your child before and/or after school, make it clear to them that they need to follow your rules about schedules, discipline and homework, the academy said in a news release.
In general, children aged 11 to 12 should not be at home alone after school, but that is the age when parents can start to consider the child’s maturity level and other circumstances (such as neighborhood safety) to make that decision, child experts say.
If another adult isn’t available to supervise children at home after school, parents should arrange to supervise their children from a distance. Kids should have a set time when they are expected to arrive home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by phone or video chat.
If your child is in an after-school program, ask about staff training. The program should have a high staff-to-child ratio, trained staff to deal with any health issues and emergencies, and the rooms and the playground should be safe, according to the AAP.
Good homework and study habits after school are also important. Schedule enough time for homework, and make sure children have a space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet and free of distractions.
Have a rule that the TV and other electronic devices are off during homework time. Be available to help, but never do a child’s homework, the AAP advises.
In high school, some teachers ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer. If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to make other arrangements.
The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines how to know when your child is ready to be home alone.