The Family Project: Stay-at-home tasks for stay-at-home children
Q. With most things closed this summer, I am very concerned about my teenagers having so much free time on their hands. They can’t find jobs, sports are cancelled and most entertainment options are shut down as well. We have returned to work, so no one is home to keep an eye on things. What can we do to keep our kids safe this year?
The panel acknowledged that the question has two sides that needed to be addressed. in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic mandated shutdowns, one question is how to keep the teens active and safe while the parents are there to supervise, and the other questions is how to do so when parents are not there.
“One concern is how long are the teens able to be left alone without any supervision,” panelist Mike Daniels said, “and how do you check on them.”
When parents are not home to supervise, Daniels suggested use of a nanny cam. “Put it somewhere where the children don’t have access to it, but discuss it so they know it is there,” said Daniels.
“It’s not a matter of not trusting the teens. It’s a matter of the parents feeling safe because their children are safe,” Daniels said. He emphasized the need to tell children about use of the camera because not telling them would be an example of mistrust.
When parents aren’t at home, there needs to be clear boundaries about what the children can and cannot do, panelist Erin Stalsitz said. “The parents should also arrange for times when they can call the children during the day,” said Stalsitz.
Denise Continenza suggested assigning specific things for children to do every day so that they have responsibilities. The tasks could include paid or unpaid chores around the house, or a project for them to work on, such as designating a wall in their room to let them decorate.
“The children might also be able to find work around the neighborhood like weeding or helping with gardening,” panelist Pam Wallace suggested.
Daniels’ family has created a family camp in the backyard to get the children outdoors for fresh air and exercise. He said the camp, under parental supervision, offers all kinds of opportunities to have fun. “You need to step out of the box,” said Daniels.
Other suggestions from the panel included: painting pictures, keeping scrapbooks, doing a puzzle together, creating and performing short skits.
When Wallace proposed reading a book and reporting on it, Stalsitz said her 15-year-old daughter would never do that.
Daniels said it is important to include children in planning activities. “Everything is their choice now. We have to help them make choices, so the more opportunities and choices we give them, the more likely we will be successful,” said Daniels.
This week’s panel: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist and Denise Continenza, extension educator.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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