Some parents dread it, while others are anxiously awaiting it…the decision to leave your child home alone for the first time. How do you determine if your child is ready to stay home alone? Only a few states have laws that specify the age when a child can be left home alone, including Maryland (age 8) and Illinois (age 14). In Kansas and Missouri, state laws do not specify the age at which a child can be left home alone.
Most states have guidelines with the Department of Health and Human Services or other child protective agencies that test a child’s ability to be left home alone. According to the Child Welfare Reform Information Gateway, here are some questions to consider before leaving your child home alone:
- Does your child feel comfortable being home alone?
- Does your child obey rules and make good decisions?
- Is your child physically and mentally able to care for himself?
- How does your child respond to stressful situations?
- How long will your child be left home alone?
- What time of day will your child be left alone?
- What routines well your child be responsible for? (i.e. Will your child need to fix a meal?)
- Is your home safe and free of hazards?
- How safe is your neighborhood?
- Are there adults nearby that you trust and you are home and can offer mediate systems if there’s an emergency or if your child get scared?
- Does your child know what to do if a visitor comes to the door?
- Does your family have a safety plan for emergencies? Can your child follow this plan?
- Does your child no his or her full name, address, and phone number?
- Does your child know where you are and how to contact you at all times?
- Does your child know who to contact if you cannot be reached?
Once you have determined that your child is ready to stay home alone, the following tips may help prepare your child to feel more comfortable about staying home alone:
- Communicate. Encourage your child to share his feelings with you about staying home alone. Have this conversation before leaving and when you return.
- Establish rules. Make sure your child knows what is (and is not allowed) when you’re not home. Set clear limits. Some experts suggest making a list of chores or other tasks to keep children busy while you are gone.
- Have a trial period. Leave your child home alone for a short time while walking the dog around the block or running a quick errand to the grocery store. This is a good way to see how your child will manage on their own.
- Role-play. Act out possible scenarios to help your child learn what to do if a visitor comes to the door and how to answer phone calls in a way that doesn’t reveal that a parent is not at home.
- Discuss emergencies. Talk about what your child considers an emergency and what you consider an emergency. Create a form with the plan and contact numbers in the event of an emergency.
- Prepare. Spend time with your child before you leave preparing simple snacks and meals, making sure doors are locked, reviewing house rules and expectations for behavior. This is a great opportunity to fill your child’s bucket and let them know how much you care about them and their safety.
- Check in. Call your child while you are away to see how everything is going. If you are not able to check in, ask a trusted neighbor or friend to do this for you.
- Don’t overdo it. Even a mature responsible child needs interaction with their peers and adults. Consider other options such as programs offered by schools, community centers, youth organizations or faith-based organizations.
If you determine your child is not ready to be left home alone consider these options for childcare:
Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, March 13th, 2016. This is the time of year when we spring our clocks forward (and lose one-hour of sleep). For most of us, the lost hour of shut-eye is no big deal, but for young children, daylight savings can create a kink in their sleep-wake cycle.
So, what can parents do?
First and foremost, begin by developing these healthy sleep habits:
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule for your child. Bedtime and nap times are always the same time.
- Establish a 20-30 minute bedtime routine. (i.e. Brush teeth, story time, prayers, snuggles, good night kiss.)
- Know your child’s sleepy cues. Consistency is encouraged, but also be aware of your child’s sleepy cues. (Yawning, irritability, etc.) An over-tired child will have a more difficult time falling asleep, so start the bedtime routine as soon as you see those sleepy cues.
- Eliminate bright lights or screens at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light interferes with melatonin production and can create bigger bedtime battles.
Once you have these basic sleep practices in place, choose one of these two methods to help your little one transition with the time change: “Go with the Flow” or “Adjust the Schedule Steady and Slow”.
“GO WITH THE FLOW”
WHO: Early risers, kids who typically wake up at the crack of dawn and kids older than two years old.
- Move all your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed Saturday night (March 12, 2016)
- On Sunday, continue with your normal routine. If you have an early-riser, your child should wake up a little later.
- Keep nap and mealtime routines on schedule according to their usual schedule. (i.e. If nap time is noon, keep it at noon)
- Keep bedtime the same as always, if bedtime has always been 7:30pm, keep it at 7:30pm.
“ADJUST THE SCHEDULE STEADY AND SLOW”
WHO: Babies and children who are more sensitive to changes in schedule
HOW: Slowly adjust your child’s bedtime after the time change:
- Shift your clocks forward one hour on Saturday night (March 12, 2016).
- Sunday, keep your child in bed until the new waking time, which would be 30 minutes earlier than normal. So if your child normally wakes at 8:00 a.m., you will want to wake your child up at 7:30 a.m. (which is the old 6:30 a.m.).
- For bedtime, you’ll want to have your child in bed at 8:30 p.m. (this is the old 7:30 p.m.).
- It’s important that you are consistent with your child’s schedule and routines. To do this by moving all mealtimes and naps 1/2-hour later.
- After 2-3 days, move your child’s bedtime back another 1/2-hour to 8:00 p.m. (the old 7:00 p.m.). You will also need to shift your baby’s waking time later by 1/2-hour. So you’ll now wake your child at 8:00 a.m.
- Adjust all mealtimes and naps 30-minutes later throughout your daily routine.
It can take a week or two for kids to adjust to the time change. So, stay consistent and persistent.
Empowerful Parenting™ is giving children the power and opportunity to learn and grow by doing things for themselves.
In a society of “helicopter parents” who swoop in anytime their child is challenged or uncomfortable, Empowerful Parents understand that it is through life’s challenges that we grow.
Empowerful Parents give their children space and opportunity to learn through experience.
Empowerful Parents provide children with honest, loving guidance and positive support to develop independence and self-confidence.
Scenario: Your 6-year old wails from the couch, “Mom, I’m thirsty!”
The enabling parent:
Responds to needs by getting the child a drink.
The Empowerful Parent:
Says an empowering statement, “You are thirsty? What are you going to do?” (This statement says: I believe in your abilities. You are capable. I value your opinion.)
Then, gives space and time for child to think and respond.
If child needs help, parent offers guidance by saying, “You could get a cup from the panty for water or there are juice boxes in the refrigerator”
If child asks parent to do it for them, parent responds, “Let’s get your drink together. I can show you how, so you will know what to do next time you feel thirsty.”
Scenario: Your 10-year old has put off doing his book report–it is due tomorrow and he hasn’t even started yet.
The enabling parent:
Helps the child by basically doing the project for him so he won’t get a bad grade.
The Empowerful Parent:
Encourages the child with an empowering statement that helps the child recognize the strengths of the situation (i.e. “you still have plenty of time to finish the project” or “you are smart kid, I know you’ll figure it out”).
Then, The Empowerful Parent gives the child space and time for independent problem solving while remaining present for positive support.
Next, offers guidance when child requests assistance.
Finally, if needed parent works together with the child to help facilitate problem solving.
The Empowerful Parent sees challenges like this as an opportunity for the child to learn about time management.
Learn more: Empowerful Parenting™ Fox News interview
I can’t talk about Empowerful Parenting™ without giving a “shout out” to all of the people who have influenced my evolution as a parent. I am blessed to be surrounded by a community of Empowerful Parents. It is these amazing mamas and papas who have helped me to see the power of positive thinking, recognizing abilities and providing children with safe and appropriate opportunities for growth and independence. These relationships have helped me evolve from an enabling parent into an Empowerful Parent. Thanks to all of you…you know who you are 😉
Smiles are contagious.
Every time you smile, you start a feel-good party in your brain. Your brain starts throwing out neurotransmitters, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin like confetti. When other people sense your smile party, they want to join in too. Before you know it, your infectious smile has spread. People all around you have contracted your contagious smile. Scientist and spiritual teachers alike agree that smiling can transform you and the world around you. Current research (and common sense) shows us that a smile makes you appear more attractive to others. It lifts your mood as well as the moods of those around you, and it can even lengthen your life. So slap a smile on that face of yours. Who knows who you will spread your case of the smiles to?!?!
How to play:
- Smile at someone, anyone. It can be the cashier at the grocery store, your mom, a baby or the mail man.
- See if they smile back.
- If they do, hooray! You get one point.
- If they don’t, boo hoo. You lose one point.
- The goal is to get 10 points.
- This can be a contest between multiple people to see who gets to 10 points first or a race to see how quickly you can get to 10-points on your own.
My family has a blast playing this at the grocery store, at home with each other, at school…any where.
Have fun and may the smiling odds ever be in your favor!
I love this time of year. The beginning of a new year. New goals. New aspirations. Excitement. Optimism. The start of something new brings the hope of something great! We set goals to eat healthy, exercise more, lose weight, quit bad habits, be more productive…
Why do we set these goals?
Is it because it’s the “right” thing to do, what we think we “should” do? Or, is it because doing these things will make us happy?
I challenge you, this year, to stop “shoulding” yourself and set your New Years resolutions based upon your soul’s deepest desire: HAPPINESS.
Take a moment to reflect on your life. What moments do you remember with a smile? Is it busting your butt on the treadmill at 5am or is it that afternoon that you hiked through Tooth Fairy Forest with your family?
This year, instead of setting goals for things you SHOULD do, write a list of all the things that will make you HAPPY. Then, resolve to spend more time doing those things.
Resolve to choose happiness above all “shoulds”.
I’m definitely not saying go hogwild on the fried chicken at Country Kitchen buffet or spend the year sitting on your couch laughing at reruns of Seinfeld. Those activities might make you happy in the moment, but when December 31, 2016 rolls around are those the moments that you will remember?
Resolve to create moments worth remembering.
I am certain this resolution will lead you to your HAPPIEST year yet!
What are your resolutions to create happiness? I’d love to read them!
A few of my resolutions to create happiness:
- Having FUN makes me happy…Spend more time playing, laughing and being silly.
- BALANCE in my life makes me happy…balance my time between work, play, relaxation, relationships, me-time, charity.
- SUCCESS and accomplishment makes me happy…Take daily action towards my life goals.
- Spending QUALITY TIME with my loved ones and friends makes me happy…have parties, celebrate everything, host more happy hours, lunch dates, put down my phone and Be present with people, snuggle my family and puppy.
- TRAVELING makes me happy…plan vacations, take road trips.
- Feeling HEALTHY makes me happy…walk the dog, walk with friends, do yoga, plan healthy meals, cook with my family, meditate.
- MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION makes me happy…spend time daily talking with my kids about topics beyond “how was your day”.
- INSPIRING others makes me happy…write inspiring blogs, public speaking, write inspirational book, practice affirmations.
- Being KIND and HELPFUL makes me happy…continue working as a pediatric OT, volunteer at kids’ school, volunteer on HOA board, do lots of random acts of kindness.
- Being CREATIVE makes me happy…write some more books (maybe with my kids), launch the Comfy Cup.
- Having FREEDOM and FREE TIME makes me happy…So I vow to practice saying “no thanks” to thongs and things that don’t make me happy! (haha, typo that I decided to leave in–because thongs don’t make me happy…I much prefer a cozy booty-covering underpant). No thanks to thongs that ride up my crack! Also, no thanks to any THING doesn’t create FUN or FREE TIME or HAPPY AND MEMORABLE MOMENTS.
Each year, I choose a “word for the year”. Several people have asked what my word is this year.
This year, my word is HAPPINESS.
What is yours?
For the past two years, my 9-year old son’s wardrobe has rarely deviated from elastic waisted athletic pants. We have endured tears and tantrums about putting on a pair of pants that have a zipper for class programs, weddings, and family portraits.
I am not the mom who picks out their kids’ outfits everyday. I’m exactly the opposite. Anyone who has seen my kids on any given school day knows that I let my offspring choose their clothing–almost always.
Special occasions requiring dressed-up attire have been a tearful, sweaty disaster with my big-guy. UNTIL, my neighbor enlightened me about Abercrombie & Fitch’s sweatpant stretch jeans.
That’s right. SWEATPANT. JEANS.
Jeans that fit and feel like sweatpants. This is not a joke. This is a real thing. If you don’t know about it, you are missing out.
After purchasing a pair of the $39.95 a&f straight sweatpant stretch jeans, my 9-year old son who hasn’t worn a pair of jeans without crying in 2-years exclaimed,
“On a scale from 1-10, I give these a 9.75!”
Then, HE WORE THEM TO SCHOOL! All day. Without complaining. He even rode his bike around the block wearing them after school.
I am getting ZERO kickbacks from a&f for this blog (although I would gladly except some in order to afford multiple pairs of these magical sweatpants jeans). I wrote this so other mothers with “husky” “sensory-sensitive” boys can experience the bliss and freedom from a life lived solely in athletic pants.
Disclaimer: my husky 9-year old needed a size 14 in the skinny stretch jeans, so size up if your little man is a bigger-little man.
Seriously…Give your family the gift of a athletic pant-free holiday and order some of these magical jeans today! You will not regret it. Especially when it’s time to go to Aunt Vivienne’s fancy China-clad Christmas Eve dinner and you kid wants to roll up to the table in his Under Armour apparel.
Any parent will tell you that parenting is the hardest job in the world. A day spent at home with my kids is more mentally and physically challenging than any day at work. Why? I believe it is my strong emotional connection to my kids. After all, it is my responsibility to fill them with love and help them grow into the best human beings they can be. As parents, it is our nature to give our children unconditional love and kindness. The challenge arises when delineating between loving-kindness and enabling.
“Moooom, WHERE ARE MY SHOES?”
“Moooom, I’m hungry!”
“Moooom, is it time to go yet?”
“Mom? Did you hear me?”
I know I am not the only mother that is exhausted by the end of the day. The constant need for guidance and assistance and attention can be draining. Sometimes, it just seems easier to do things for them rather than teach them to do things for themselves. But is that the loving thing to do? Isn’t empowering more loving than enabling?
Like all parents I love my kids to the moon and back. I want the world for them and I want them to HAVE, DO, and BE everything their soul desires. I realize that I don’t have to HAVE, DO, and BE everything FOR them.
So, where is that fine line between acts of love and enabling (which really is disabling) your child to depend upon you to HAVE, DO, and BE everything FOR them.
There comes a time when you have to choose between giving your children the means to depend upon you or giving them the authority to explore the world independently.
On a picture of my children at the beach, the caption reads: Do not do for others what they can do for themselves.
Now, when I hear, “Mooom….”, I take a moment to ask myself, “Is this request something they can do for themselves?”
If it is something I know they are capable of doing, I do this– I call it Empowerful Parenting:
You are smart and strong I believe that is something you can do for yourself.
2. Then, I challenge them to find a solution.
Hmmm…what ideas do you have to solve this problem?
3. If they tried. I mean really tried. Then I offer choices as suggestions to guide them in their problem-solving.
Have you tried___ or ___?
4. Finally, I offer to help complete the task together. Not FOR them, WITH them.
I am proud of you for trying…let’s see if we can do it together.
If you think about it, when we are recognizing our children’s abilities and supporting and believing in the fact that they can do it for themselves. We are empowering them. That is ultimately loving them.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still “MOOOOM” moments that require my attention. (i.e. I puked in my bed or I want a hug.)
And, if I am being completely honest, I still revert back to the “I’ll do it for you” on occasion. Hey, nobody is perfect, right?
Overall, I am consciously making an effort to EMPOWER my children to trust in themselves and their own abilities, not to depend upon me to magically meet their needs and solve all their challenges.
Presently–and even after my kids are grown-up and moved out of the house–I know there will be those “MOOOOM MOMENTS”. Those moments when my children really do need ME.
In those moments I will follow the advice of my own mother, and “appreciate being needed“.
As a parent in a busy household, one of the wishes I have each day is for just a few moments of peace and quiet and solitude. As a mama also aspiring for enlightenment– a few moments of meditation would be equally awesome. But, let’s be honest. Finding peace and quiet is a rare commodity in a busy household–unless you wake up at the crack-of-dawn and disappear to the solitude of the basement before those little feet pitter-patter down the hall squealing, “I’m hungry”.
5. Do not attend to any knocking, hollering, barking, ringing for 5-minutes. Imagine that your body is not a solid mass, but instead that it is made up of millions of tiny atoms (because it actually is). Feel the space between the atoms expanding and filling the room (kind of like a fart).
“That day they navigated, on their westerly course, day and night, 20 leagues, counting a little less. Here those of the caravel Niña reported that they had seen a tern and a boatswain bird, and these birds never go more than 25 leagues from the land.”
In other words, he noticed the birds…and knew he was close to land.
You can use this principle in business and personal life, too. I call it The Seagull Theory.
The Seagull Theory describes how the subtlest of clues can signify you’re on the right track. For example, when someone says something once, you might not notice it. When you hear it again, that’s interesting. When you hear it three times, you lean in and start paying attention.