QUESTION: I’m trying to decide if my children are ready to be home alone for short periods of time. I’m thinking specifically of the time after school until I arrive home from work, or in the evening when I attend a meeting or go out to dinner. How can I tell when it’s okay to get by without a babysitter?
When a new baby comes along, we take the responsibility of caring for it; learning the meaning of every cry, making sure it is warm and safe, checking to see if it is breathing when everything seems too peaceful to be true. Our job as parents is to make everything right for this new baby who needs us to fix every problem. The first few days after childbirth are a fuzzy memory to many of us. Functioning on little to no sleep and in a haze of great awe, we struggle to figure out this bundle in our arms: Hungry? Sleepy? Gassy? We are supposed to know this baby better than anyone and we do - but the learning curve is steep and the language confusing.
One of the very best parenting tools is the parent time-out. When parents are feeling upset, angry or frustrated over a parenting issue - or over their children’s behavior - it can help to diffuse the situation if the parent removes themselves to get calm and centered, rather than force the isolation of their child into a child time-out. After the parent is calm, they are in a much better frame of mind to deal with the issue at hand and they’ve avoided saying and doing things they might regret later.
One of my worst parenting days was when I was still sitting at my computer in pajamas and my husband walked through the front door. I thought that he had forgotten his laptop at home again and returned to get it so that he could go back to work and get started on his day. When he didn’t seem to want to leave again, I realized that it was suppertime and that I had succumbed to spending the whole day in the black hole of the Internet and social media. Where had the time gone? My kids had spent the day at home watching movies and eating sugary cereal for breakfast, lunch and a snack.
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