“Mom, I’m home!”
That used to be the cry heard in kitchens across the country as kids came barreling through the door after school.
But that isn’t necessarily the case any more. These days, odds are that Mom and Dad are at work and that the kids are coming home to an empty house. In fact, it’s estimated that at least one-third of all school-aged children are so-called “latchkey kids.” They let themselves in and basically are unsupervised between the time they get home from school and the time their parents get home from work.
Ideally, children under 12 should not be left alone for an extended period, but the reality is that about half of all third, fourth and fifth graders nationwide are latchkey kids. That sets the stage for problems. Child welfare agencies report that a third of the phone calls they receive involve latchkey kids.
In deciding whether to leave children home unsupervised, parents must assess each child’s needs, maturity level and personality. Remember: Every child is different, and while one child may be mature and responsible enough to stay home along, another might not. If this is a problem you face this summer, consider summer camp.