Staying home alone is a milestone in a child’s development that rewards their growing sense of responsibility and helps them build confidence. These are some signs a parent can look for to determine if your child is ready to take care of themselves for short time periods, along with steps for getting your child and house ready.
Deciding If Your Child Is Ready To Stay Home Alone
- Know your local laws. Kids develop at their own individual pace so legal restrictions are just part of the picture. Many experts suggest that ages 10 to 12 is a typical threshold period for starting self-care. Your local police department or Child Protective Services agency can advise you on the laws for your jurisdiction.
- Determine if your child is willing. Ensure your child wants to stay on their own. Otherwise, the experience can backfire and create more fears and anxieties.
- Examine your child’s track record. Look for evidence of taking responsibility and demonstrating sound judgment. Does your child get himself ready for school? Is his homework consistently done on time with minimal supervision?
Steps To Take With Your Child
- Test it out first. Build up to leaving a child alone for longer stretches. Start out with quick visits to a neighbor or trips to a local store. Discuss any issues that arise. Praise them for managing on their own and looking after the house.
- Rehearse difficult scenarios. Train your child on how to answer the phone and door when no adult is present. Get together and role play about how to call 911 and respond to other emergencies.
- Discuss all the rules. People of all ages are more likely to obey rules when they participate in making them and buy into the reasoning behind them. Many kids also need occasional reminders about anything that occurs infrequently.
- Schedule check ins. Create the feeling of supervision. Ask a neighbor to check in while you’re out. Require your child to call you when they arrive home or if they plan on going out.
- Develop a guest policy. Ban all guests if you think that’s safest. Otherwise you may want to specify which individuals are allowed over and limit the number at any one time.
- Plan activities. Boredom can lead to trouble. Give your kids something to do, so, for example, they’ll play a board game instead of making prank phone calls.
Steps To Take With Your House
- Post emergency numbers. Stick a list of important contacts on the refrigerator door and by each phone. Include the police and fire departments, your family doctor and your own numbers.
- Limit internet access. Some parents prefer to shut down internet access completely. In any case, talk with your kids about staying safe online and remaining alert to their surroundings.
- Provide safe snacks and meals. Put the stove off limits to younger kids. Leave them with food that’s ready to eat or can just be heated in the microwave.
- Remove hazards. Double check that matches and prescription drugs are out of reach. Get rid of any toxic products that you’re unlikely to use.
- Secure all windows and doors. Check that everything is locked, including the garage. Give a spare key to a neighbor in case your child loses their own. Teach kids to go to a neighbor’s house and call the police if they see a broken window or other signs of a possible break-in.
Work schedules and other obligations make child care challenging for many families. If your kids are ready to stay home alone, taking care of themselves can be a great solution that encourages a healthy sense of independence. Otherwise, provide adult supervision until your family is prepared for this big step.
How many times have you walked into your home office only to cringe, turn around, and walk out? If you spend more time thinking up reasons to avoid your office than actually working in it, you may be suffering from ‘mess related stress.’
The fact is, clutter is more than a time and space waster; clutter causes stress. Let’s take a look at the typical home office hot-spots and learn a few tricks for clearing the clutter to create more calm.
Whether you have a huge antique roll top desk, a modern massive executive desk, or a tiny computer cart, your desk is going to be the repository for a lot of stuff.
Much like a closet, the bigger the desk, the bigger the mess. Purchasing a larger desk will not solve the clutter problem. However, organizing the space you have available on your desk will definitely help.
Start de-cluttering your desk by making a clean sweep of the top, cubbies, and drawers. All that should remain is the hardware, such as the computer, printer, etc. Once you can see your desk’s surfaces, the mess that should jump out at you first is the tangle of cords. Even though electrical and computer cords don’t exactly infringe on your workspace, the visual impact most certainly will stress your brain. Clear this mess by corralling those cords in simple cardboard or foam tubes and get them out of sight.
Now that you have a clear surface and neatly tucked away cords, set up a few containers for those items that you always need. You’ll probably want small bins or cups to hold pens, pencils, and notepads. However, your needs may include paper-clips, staplers, tape, rulers, and calculators. The idea is to only have on your desk what you need to work, and to have those items stored in handy containers.
You will want a nice big clear area on your desk to actually work on the project you have at the moment. Therefore, rather than pile your desk high with an entire week’s worth of work, choose another area close by to hold the papers, books, journals, or other bulky items you’ll need later.
That brings us to the most common home office clutter monster – papers. This includes projects, notes, mail, and all that paperwork we just can’t seem to get rid of. There are, however, ways to tame even this monster.
As mentioned, you want to remove the pile of papers from your immediate work area, most likely your desk. In order to have a good work space available on your desk, the paper has to go somewhere else. But, there’s more to de-cluttering than just moving papers around.
We all have paper to handle every day. We take notes, we get mail, we save receipts – the list is endless, just like the paper. If you tend to toss every piece of paper into the In-Box in your office, perhaps it’s time to stop treating all paperwork equally.
To set up a system for paperwork that doesn’t just become another pile, you will need to divide your office’s In-Box into categories. For example, set up three boxes and title them “Immediate,” “Tomorrow,” and “File.” Anything you have to handle before you move onto another task goes into the “Immediate” box. Something that is not as time-sensitive, but needs to be checked again tomorrow, obviously goes into the “Tomorrow” box, and things that don’t need any further consideration can simply go into the “File” box to be stored when you have time. Of course, you will really have a fourth box – the trash can – to complete your paperwork system.
If you use this method, remember to keep the papers moving daily, and clean out the filed papers on a routine basis, which brings us to the next area where clutter often reigns – the file.
Even the best file cabinet or closet fills up when left unattended. You may think “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to this clutter, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Knowing you have mountains of clutter lurking behind closed doors is enough to cause ‘mess stress.’ You don’t have to see it every minute of every day to feel that stress gnawing at you.
Start clearing the stored stuff out of your files, shelves, and closets by first finding out what you actually need to keep. There are good lists available on many websites, including the IRS. Use these guidelines to begin purging documents that are no longer needed for tax or estate purposes.
Now you can begin digging into those items that are no longer relevant. You may find old manuals for equipment you don’t have, or receipts for items way past the point of return. Many of these items have simply been forgotten. You may even find boxes and packing materials for items you have no intention of ever shipping anywhere. It’s time to discard those “some day we may need these” items.
Discarding old paycheck stubs, receipts, and empty boxes is pretty painless. But, the next step can be a bit more difficult. This is the area you dread most – the emotional things.
These are the crafts you started, magazines you saved, and other items you kept because you loved something about them. Maybe it’s a book or magazine with decorating ideas or recipes you wanted to try. It may be a story you saved to read later. Perhaps there are pictures to be framed or cards to be stamped. The point is, there are projects lost in a pile and it’s a difficult thing to deal with.
The easiest method for clearing the stuff you are emotionally attached to is to get rid of the extras. For example, take pictures or scan those craft ideas and recipes and download them to files on your computer, then toss the magazines. Go through all your projects and purge items you no longer need or want. Any school or daycare would be happy to take your extra ribbon, fabric paint, glitter, card stock, stamps, and whatnot.
If after clearing out the extras you are still faced with piles of projects, consider making a small investment in some inexpensive shelving to neatly house your crafting projects. This simple storage solution can go a long way to de-cluttering, and de-stressing.
Now that you have your desk cleaned off, your paperwork moving smoothly from start to finish, your filed items purged, and your projects reduced and neatly arranged, it’s time to sit down and get some work done. What a relief to finally be rid of that creeping clutter. Enjoy your ‘mess-less stress-less’ home office!
Stress is going to happen to us all regardless of the measures we take the prevent it. However, those who have an organized home and family structure tend to deal with these inevitable setbacks more easily than those who do not. This is mainly because organization is much like an insurance policy on the home. Ultimately, it gives family members the ability to get things accomplished without losing their minds in the process.
Use Family Postings for Group Communication
There is nothing wrong with using your professional skills in the house, especially if you want to streamline things to reduce your stress. At work you probably see poster boards of one type or another broadcasting important announcements and such. This is what helps keep all the coworkers toiling away in unison. The same can be said about your home if you use the same thing. Family postings allow you to keep everyone on the same page without having to micromanage every move that is made in the house.
Have Regular Family Meetings
As a stress free and happy family you all need to know about one another’s lives. You need to learn about schedules, troubles, aspirations, and the like in regards to your family members. Just like you hold a conference to catch everyone up to speed at work, you should do the same at home. Having regular family meetings allows you to fix problems before they get out of hand because it gives your loved ones an open forum to speak their mind.
Remember the 5-Minute Rule
Living life might end up being a messy endeavor but cleaning up after yourself can be easier than you think. An organized homes is a happier and more productive one, but it does take some work. Remember the 5-minute rule: five minutes at the end of an activity can save you hours of time and labor later. For starters, have everyone pick up their messes at the end of the day. It usually only takes about 5 minutes per person and the whole house will be back to normal in no time.
It is important to help your children understand the importance of doing things on a regular basis. You don’t think twice about teaching them to brush their teeth every day. When you do something repeatedly it becomes a habit. Having good habits can set your children up for their future and avoid so much stress.
Some examples of creating good habits in your children include having them expect to spend time each night on homework. They know that to learn how to play basketball or kick that soccer ball they have to practice, until it becomes a habit.
Like anything in life, habits are not always that easy to learn. Some people just have that knack for throwing or hitting a ball. Some children find it easier to learn how to read and write, while others labor over this.
At home you teach your children to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, make their bed and brush their teeth. These are all habits, they had to be taught. They become so habitual that your child does them automatically.
As a proud parent you want your children to form good habits that will benefit them in life. If they know how to organize their day, they will become great planners and be more productive. Teaching them the habit of saving helps prepare them for eventually moving out and living on their own.
When it comes to helping your children form habits it is not always easy. Children are definitely not predictable at all. One of the basic requirements of forming habits is learning how to schedule things.
School schedules your children for you, they have to arrive on time and go to classes at certain times. At home you need to set up guidelines similar to this. Bedtime is scheduled based upon the age of your child. Homework is scheduled based on the amount or regularity of the homework. You should schedule chores in a similar way.
If your child’s week is fairly busy then schedule in chores for the weekend. There is no reason why they can’t help sort their own laundry, help change their bedding and even help plan out meals for the upcoming week.
As you schedule in these chores you are also helping them become more independent. They will know how to clean, how to prepare certain meals and be familiar with the whole process of buying groceries.
To help your children form good habits start them off early and add in age appropriate chores and tasks for them to complete. They will thank you for it later on in life.