Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Caring For Your Middle Schooler

How did our teens come to be throw-away children? In other words, as the Western world turned to dual-income families, single parent families, and everyone scrambled to provide professional child care for the youngest of children, how did our teens get left behind? Does anyone seriously think that a 13-year-old should be home alone? For how long? A half day? All summer long?

I know many parents who cannot afford child care for even their "tweens." I know of far too many 11- and 12-year-olds walking home from school alone. The invisible "latch-key children" that no one wants to look at, no one wants to address. Heck, even the IRS cuts off the deduction for child care expenses at age 13, unless your child is handicapped.

A serious search over my lunch hour today showed that the bulk of summer programs are designed for children 12 and under, for adults, and for seniors. Most are scheduled during the work day, which would be fine if they were a full day program, but a class/activity from 9:00 to noon Monday through Friday leaves the parent wondering what the heck their child is going to do the rest of the day, and how he/she will get there. Are there really that many stay-at-home parents, able to handle these "recreational schedules"? Or parents that are wealthy enough to be able to drop the equivalent of a rent payment for a month's worth of summer camp?

I asked my boss today what she did when her daughter hit middle school, and on-site after school care was no longer available. She looked slightly uncomfortable when she told me that her middle-schooler spent most of her time at the office. Summertime camps were scheduled, as well as an end-of-summer vacation for the family. I assume it was similar during high school.

Sure, my older daughters went home after school when they hit middle school. However, they were two kids together, not solo, and able to walk 1 block safely home. They had grandparents who were able to pick them up one or two afternoons a week to spend time with them, and trusted stay-at-home neighbors close by. What do I do with my solo kid that won't break the bank or put her at risk? There are options to be explored, but it is seriously a part time job to do so.

What do we, as parents, need to do in order to open up opportunities for our teens to be safe and loved when they're out of school? Especially those parents who *must* work to put food on the table and a roof over their heads?

You know, there has to be a better way.


  1. I thought she would be picked up after school and be at office and summers at office. Bus to relative or friend even makes me uneasy.....and no one at the other end at home; plus to, from and waiting at bus stop. I hope you find - or school will help create - better solution.

  2. Wow, Laura. I can hear your pain and frustration and fear. I hope you find a solution which works for everyone. I think you're right to question this as a social issue -- MANY parents have to be affected by this; what do they all do?

    My Mom started working when I was 10 years old and I walked home from school by myself and stayed by myself from that point forward. It wasn't good for me: I was lonely and I ate to console myself. Still a problem to this day.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

    Love, Ann

  3. Thank you for your comments. I love seeing them!

    Ann, that must have been a frightening thing to deal with. No wonder you are so self-sufficient and strong; but I can see, too, the little girl who was lonely. :-(

    Becca and I spent about an hour going through pages of ideas for activities/classes. We had to take a break halfway through because she got so disappointed and discouraged that most of the things she was interested in were for young children or adults. I would *love* to take a cooking class with her! But labeling a set of classes in the index as adult/teen, then restricting it to 18+ ... well, that's just messed up. 18+ IS adult.

    We have settled on some swim lessons and a juggling class. Sounds like fun!

  4. Laura,

    I understand completely where you are coming from. I know this is a huge struggle to find what will work for your daughter but I also believe that you will leave no stone unturned and will find the perfect solution.

    I was one of the fortunate ones that I was able to be here when my kids hit the teen years, much to their chagrin!

    I could never understand how so many in the community do not get that preteens and teens could handle so many hours without guidance.Of course you get it! Can't wait to see you and Becca juggle!!!