How To Announce a New Baby to an Older Sibling

May 18, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting

It’s important to be highly in tune with your existing child when you share the news of a new sibling. That’s because when a child goes from being an only child to being one of two or even one of several, the emotional possibilities can be pretty extreme. That’s why parents may need to consider multiple options when announcing a new baby.


In fact, it may help to have two plans going into the big reveal: One for an excited big brother or sister. And one for a grumpy, upset or confused child, says Alyson Schafer, a family counselor and the author of Honey I Wrecked the Kids. The third potential reaction, one of ambivalence, just doesn’t often last, she says.

“We must always take the attitude that it’s a positive thing,” she says. “The more we say it in a way of excitement, the better it is. You’re pitching it.”

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Think Shark Tank, but higher stakes.

Parents also have to consider avoiding the creation a rift if they have multiple kids already. “Kids need to be told at the same time in order to lessen sibling rivalry,” she says. “Gather everyone together. You don’t want to tell them one heard first.” No matter how parents feel, it’s critical they focus on their current kids and adapting to them. “God knows the infant isn’t going to know if anything exciting happened, so adapting to your existing children is far more important.”

If They’re Excited

Then go with it. Involve the child in decisions and help fuel the excitement of being a sibling, Schafer says.

How parents express that has to align with who they are as a person. Having some fun games to play along the way is great for a Pinterest Parent who likes to turn simple things into creative ventures, she says.

But if those who aren’t one of those parents, that’s OK.

“You can have a lot of fun, but don’t force it,” she says. “You need to be authentically you. Kids can sense insincerity.”


Three Fun Ways for Kids to Track The Baby’s Arrival

  1. Count backwards on a wall calendar to the due date. Schafer says a calendar can help make the long pregnancy more tangible time-wise for a child as they see how long it takes to cross off each new day.
  2. Count out a Hershey’s kiss for each day of the pregnancy. Put them in a glass vase. Each day you can count down “to baby kisses.”
  3. Use the grocery store. When you go grocery shopping each week, find the item one of the pregnancy apps will reference for the size of the baby each week. Ask your child: “What’s the size of this chocolate chip?” Have them guess. “It’s the size of your baby brother or sister RIGHT NOW!”

If They’re Not Excited

Going from the only child to one of two can be really scary for a little one, Schafer says.

There’s no way to predict or alter that reaction beyond framing it well from the start. So if that’s the reaction, parents need to be sensitive to it. Reassurance is vital rather than trying to change a mindset.

“Depending on the attitude, you don’t want to make it out like a prince or a princess is coming,” she says. “If a child is already feeling threatened, then you don’t want to add to the stress.”

She suggests keeping things calm and simple. Reassure that life is going to be mostly the same. In other words, decorate the baby’s room, but don’t invite friends over to ooh and ahh, she says. At least not with the kid around.

“If you have a baby shower, consider getting a sitter,” she says. “Don’t include your child in situations that will further fears or feelings of resentment.”

Be Ready

Discussing a baby in mom’s belly can lead to an obvious question: How did it get in there? “It’s usually not the first question, but it may be a question that comes down the line,” Schafer says. Be ready to respond. Parents are more uncomfortable about it than kids.

Books can be a great help.

How Long Should Parents Wait?

Some parents are really excited to share the news, as evidenced by the number of peed-on pregnancy tests that show up on Instagram.

But when there is another child to think about, the advice to hold off on sharing good news is even more important.

“There are so many miscarriages in the first trimester,” Schafer says. “We don’t need to be making big announcements to siblings because then you’ll have to explain loss of life.”

The one exception might be a particularly rough first trimester where a child is fearful of why mommy is spending so much time puking in bushes. Sharing the news and explaining facts may be necessary then, she says.

Whatever parent’s do, the existing child’s best interest should drive those decisions.

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Bright Whites for Summer

May 17, 2018 in Family,

Looking ahead to Memorial Day and planning a road trip this summer has got me excited about feeling the sunshine on my skin! I’m so ready to welcome those long, lazy summer days. Although here in San Francisco, summer = fog,  I know that’s not the case for most everywhere else.

I will live vicariously through all of you and plan our summer wardrobe! Dressing in whites is timeless and modern all at the same time. You could go big with the all white t-shirt and jeans for effortless cool, or a simple dress for those warm nights (sigh). Any of these pieces would brighten up even our dreary SF summer.

By Fashion Editor Sarah

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How to Get an Older Sibling to Help with a Baby

May 16, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting

Children can do most chores sooner than parents imagine, and helping out with a new baby is no exception. A new baby necessarily changes the balance of a family, but involving an older kid in childcare does more than just help a dad out. It can assist with the cognitive development of the newborn, have a positive influence on sibling relationships down the road, and ensure that the older sibling feels he or she plays a role in the new dynamic.


“Building those relationships very early on sets the stage for what is happening cognitively later in terms of children’s language development,” Jennifer Jenkins, a professor of early child development at the University of Toronto, told Fatherly. “It also affects their ability to be empathetic towards other people.”

How to Get an Older Sibling Involved in Baby Care

  • Involve them from the start. Even if they aren’t ready to get their hands dirty with diaper changes and bottle feedings, younger kids can still play an important role in soothing and stimulating baby.
  • Utilize their current skillset. Toddlers aren’t going to be much help carrying up loads of laundry, but they are excellent at making silly faces—which is arguably more important for cognitive development.
  • Highlight their capabilities. Framing a sibling’s contribution as being about what they can offer rather than what the baby needs helps them feel recognized and involved in the baby’s care.
  • Create a balance in the family. If older kids feel sidelined when a new baby arrives it can lead to sibling rivalry later. Ensuring they are constantly involved can help mitigate this.

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When handing off childcare responsibilities to your children, it’s important to be sure all tasks are age-appropriate. “I don’t think I’d have them doing diaper changes,” Jenkins says. “Tiny babies are too vulnerable.” Jenkins suggests parents save tasks like laundry and bottle-feeding for older siblings, and ask their younger children to help with soothing and stimulating the baby—no small task. “With parents being there and then doing all the necessary caregiving, siblings are good for play and stimulation,” she says. Indeed, studies have shown that singing, making faces, and playing peekaboo can be beneficial for even very young babies.

Early involvement in a newborn sibling’s day-to-day care can also help mitigate sibling rivalry, Jenkins says, and contribute to developing a healthy family culture. “Probably the most difficult thing parents do… is having to recognize all of the kids… and create a balance between all of them,” Jenkins says. If there is too much focus on the baby and the older child feels left out, this can sow the seeds for jealousy and rivalry as they both get older. “It’s very important that parents of newborns are also giving to their older children,” Jenkins says.

This is where involvement in baby care can have a positive effect on a parent’s relationship with the older sibling. “If you’re saying, ‘you’re so fantastic at singing songs… can you sing to the baby?’ then you are really making them feel that they are recognized, and its not just all about the baby,” Jenkins says. “That’s different than saying ‘sing them a song,’ because you haven’t put that bid in.” This frames the sibling’s involvement as an extension of something they can already do well and makes them feel recognized and involved.

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6 Myths About How and When to Give Children Chores

May 16, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting

Household chores help children learn responsibility and develop good work ethic. Studies have even suggested that chores are correlated with better outcomes in school and future employment. But the subject of chores can get downright emotional. For instance, parents who ask too much of kids may become frustrated by unfinished work. On the other hand, some parents worry that chores  could be an undue burden on their precious angels.


But between too many and too few chores, there is a goldilocks zone. In order to get there, parents need to find their way through these common myths that may be holding the whole family back from the benefit of chores:

Myth #1: Little Kids Can’t Do Chores

Children as young as 3-years-old can start doing chores, which will likely come a shock to parents who believe their preschoolers are only adept at making messes. But it’s absolutely true, as long as the chores are age-appropriate. A 3-year-old isn’t going to have what it takes to mow the lawn, but he or she can pick up sticks before you start mowing. They can also run a damp cloth along a shelf or pick up their toys and clothes. In starting early, children begin to see helping around the house as a normal part of being a family member.

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Myth #2: Kids Should Be Paid For Chores

Research shows that children who are not paid for chores benefit more from the chores they do. That’s because children who do chores without pay understand the reward is the feeling of contributing to the good of the family. Incentivizing chores with money sends the message that every good deed should have a price.

That’s not to say that children shouldn’t have an allowance. But allowance should not be tied directly to household chores. Doing work for people you love, to contribute to a household you benefit from, should be enough motivation to get things done. And if a kid is started early enough, it will be.

Myth #3: Kids Should be Forced to Do Chores

Forcing kids to do anything is generally not the best way to go about parenting. Forcing means conflict. Conflict often leads to resentment. And resentment is the launching pad for disrespect and disruptive behavioral issues.

But that doesn’t mean that parents with reticent kids should give up on chores. It may just require a little creativity. A parent might frame the chore as a game, or an opportunity to learn a new skill. Parents may even ask their kid to try out a variety of tasks, or smaller parts of larger tasks, until they find something they enjoy.

Myth #4: Chores Should Not Be Fun

There’s no rule that says chores need to feel like chores. Try adding songs, music, or dance breaks to the task at hand. Turn the chore into a game, especially if your children have a competitive edge. The bottom line is that kids need to know it’s quite okay to whistle, laugh, or otherwise make happy noises while they work.

Myth #5: Children Should Do Chores Without Help

Children learn best by example, which means you may need to get your hands dirty. Parents should work alongside their younger children at first, to show them the proper technique. As the kid gets older, parents can step away or kids can be sent off to do a well-rehearsed chore on their own. But even then, there tends to be more motivation and a sense of teamwork when the entire family is involved. This might mean that everybody does their chores at the same time, pitching in as a unit to make their household a cleaner, better looking place.

Myth #6: Parents Should Demand Perfection

The quality of a child’s work should be judged based on his or her age and ability. If you’re asking your four-year-old to dust the shelves, there will be dust left behind. If you’re asking a second grader to fold the laundry, do not expect retail-level creases. You certainly aren’t assigning chores because you can’t do these things yourself—you’re doing it to teach your children work ethic. So does it really matter what the clothes look like going into the drawer? Remember to manage your expectations, and focus on why you handed out chores in the first place.


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How to Soothe Baby Indigestion

May 15, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting

Babies tend to throw up dramatically, and big emotions call for big questions. Is vomiting a normal part of development, or linked to larger health issues? How does one soothe baby indigestion?


Fortunately, intervention is usually not necessary. “What commonly happens is that families start thinking this is an allergy or related to reflux and want to go on medications for it,” explains American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson and pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Porto. “Most of the time it happens in the setting of normal growth and happiness with feeding.”

How to Soothe Baby Indigestion

  • Wait it Out: Sometimes what seems like indigestion is spit up or gas related to the way a a baby’s body is naturally growing. It will end soon enough.
  • Look for Pain: A child that is happy before, during and after feeding is likely fine. A child that archer their back, cries or refuses to eat may have more going on.
  • Look at Weight: Children who are gaining weight appropriately are likely fine. Children who seem in pain and are not gaining weight may have medical issues.
  • See the Pediatrician: Before giving a child any medication, talk to a pediatrician. They can prescribe a medication that works or give guidance on over-the-counter remedies.

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In any case, before parents even think about potential interventions, they need to understand what’s going inside their kid’s digestive system. Turns out the answer is “a lot.” During the first couple of weeks of life, a baby’s body is actually still figuring out how to get things done: tubes are shorter and sphincters are looser. There’s the possibility of reflux, spit up, and colic, all happening around the same time. But, as long as the baby is latching normally, eating happily and gaining weight appropriately, there’s seldom cause for concern. “Even if they’re spitting up 7, 8, 9, times a day and they’re growing well, parents should be reassured,” Porto says.

Concerns come, however, with signs of pain. “We think about disease if they are turning away from, arching their back or unhappy or crying during our after feeds,” Porto says. “In those cases, if there is poor weight gain, or they’re not getting enough volume in, then we may think of putting them on some antacids.”

In most cases, the antacid pediatricians will prescribe are liquids that coat the stomach and contain calcium or magnesium bases that neutralize acids. In rare circumstances, doctors may prescribe what are called proton-pump inhibitors. But these medications can have serious side effects, so they are only used in for the worst cases of indigestion.

It’s important that parents not attempt to diagnose and treat indigestion on their own with over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies. “Speak to your pediatrician just make sure your talking about dosing and whether or not there have been recalls and side effects in kids,” Porto says. “A lot of these medicines can be safe, but we don’t have adequate knowledge of dosing for children.” As a rule, Porto adds, parents should avoid preemptively medicating their kids.

“Infancy is a tough time for moms and dads,” he says. “Sometimes we want to do something to help when it’s just a normal developmental thing they’ll outgrow on their own.”

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7 Ideas for Making Cleaning Fun with Kids

May 15, 2018 in Family,

Here are 7 ideas on making cleaning fun with kids: 

1. Color sorting with the laundry when it’s thrown into the washer. Young children love colors and sorting, so this is a perfect activity to do with them. As we sort lights from darks, let the kids sort by specific colors as well. You can even play a little eye spy game for colors you see. Then they can toss in a Tide Pods Spring Meadow Laundry Detergent or a Gain Flings Pods Laundry Detergent afterwards. These pods always do a great job getting our soiled clothes clean and fresh smelling again.

2. Kids love spray bottles, so when doing laundry let them spray the stained clothes before throwing them into the washer! They’ll do a way more thorough job than you will, trust me. We love making our own natural stain spray. Mix a bit of water, lemon, hydrogen peroxide, and natural soap into a spray bottle. After spraying, throw in a Downy Unstoppable In Wash Scent Booster before starting your wash for an extra boost of freshness for soiled clothing.

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How to Teach Small, Short, and Skinny Kids Confidence

May 14, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting

Kids who lag behind their peers in terms of height, weight, or strength often struggle with confidence. Physical prowess may not be critical for adult success, but it is often a boon for children. Those that look markedly different or struggle with sports can feel left out or somehow less-than. Self-esteem is a complicated thing, but parents can absolutely help. By talking to children about their gifts, parents can teach children how to play to their strengths, which turns out to be more important later in life than the ability to do pull-ups.


“There are different issues for school-age boys and girls, but I think the key is working with your child to see what they are really good at,” says Dr. Roseanne Lesack, a licensed psychologist, board-certified analyst, and director of child psychology unit at Nova Southeastern University. It’s important, after all, to establish that a child can be good at things. Once that premise is accepted, it’s easier to have conversations about goals, specialization, and role models. “You can find an athlete who isn’t as tall and point out that out then talk about how fast he is or how precise he is,” Lesack adds. “Every sport has figures of unremarkable size who are successful and who can perform at a high level because they have such amazing technical skills.”

That might mean spending more time looking at Allen Iverson highlights than LeBron James highlights. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s still important to know if a kid is frustrated because they have a very specific desire to do something that requires size or feels locked out of opportunity in some way. What kids want to do is as important as what they can do.

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“Ask kids what they really like, because it’s okay to like things even if you aren’t good at them,” advises Lesack. “We don’t have to be good at everything. Tell them what you like, even if you aren’t good at it. It might be dancing. It might be golf. It might be guitar.”

How to Give a Physically Smaller Kid More Confidence

  • Find appropriate heroes – people of all sizes in all pursuits can do great things. Parents can help kids find the heroes they identify with and that inspire them.
  • Help kids identify their strengths – very few teams are composed of identical skill sets. Kids can find their natural talents and develop them.
  • They don’t have to be masters – it’s okay to love something and be mediocre at it.
  • Promote the inner attributes over the external – kids can’t help if they’re tall, but they can sure decide to be excellent people.

Girls can certainly feel the sting of gym class rejection (and enjoy the benefits of bringing other skills to the field or court), but social media is exposing them to the brutal gristmill of popularity and body image even earlier than before. Lesack has noticed it can be uniquely frustrating for a girl entering into middle school to be smaller than her classmates.

“For girls, it can often be predicated on appearances – taller girls may seem prettier, or more mature,” observes Lesack. “It’s very different when it’s based on appearance instead of skill set, but even those ideas can be explored. A girl’s not prettier because she’s taller, and she’s not mature because of her height. Maybe it’s the way she speaks. Maybe it’s the way she holds herself. Maybe it’s her composure. Those are all traits someone can practice and cultivate.”

Ultimately, teaching kids how to navigate these feelings are important. Things aren’t always going to work out for a kid. They’re sometimes going to feel less popular than they would like. The trials of childhood don’t just shape the kind of person a kid grows into, but the kind of citizen, the kind of problem solver, and the kind of parent. It’s worth teaching them their inherent value.

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Our Best Travel Planning Tips

May 14, 2018 in Family,

Trip Advisor
My friend Erica suggests using this site as jumping-off point to get familiar with a new place. You can search “Top Things to Do” for a destination to get an idea of the popular tourist activities to see if any interest you. Also a great resource to double-check a hotel property before booking.

Google Flights
Ashley loves using the ‘explore flights’ option, it lets you type in your departure city and see prices for flights to destinations all over the world. A great way to find cheap flights.

Lonely Planet
The motherlode of travel advice by destination. The site is very well designed, making it easy and quick to browse a location to get the information you need.

Rick Steves Guidebooks
If you’re headed to Europe, trust us and pick up a Rick Steves’ guidebook. Erica and I both recommend him for great advice for daily itineraries, boutique hotels, city walks, museum walk-throughs and history.

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Don’t Worry if Your Kid Plays Alone

May 11, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting

Seeing your kid playing alone, especially when his or her peers are playing together as a group, can be disappointing. You may feel an instinct to intervene, and work to help your child gain friends at all costs. But butting-in may not always be the best option and, in most cases, you probably just need to chill.


“Parents should try really hard not to transpose their own fears and feelings onto their children,” says Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of the book Gentle Discipline. “I tend to find those who struggle the most are parents who are naturally very extroverted, the life and soul of the party with a wide circle of friends, who are raising naturally introverted children who prefer to play alone, or with just one close friend.”

This is especially true if your child has not yet entered kindergarten. Kids under the age of four will often engage in parallel play. That’s when two kids may be in the same room playing in proximity to each other, but really playing alone—like two adults sitting at the same table, but each staring at their phones.

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Parallel play is crucial, because it’s how children socialize before their sense of social etiquette kicks in. Over time, “children begin to understand that not everybody thinks and feels the same way,” Ockwell-Smith says. But before that, “when they are incredibly egocentric, a young child will believe that the toy they are playing with is theirs—even if it isn’t and others want to play with it too.” This is why some toddlers come off as real jerks. And nobody wants to play with a jerk.

The upshot is that parents need to make a judgement call, and determine whether their children prefer to play alone, are not developmentally ready to engage, or are incapable of engaging. “Difficulty with social relationships can be an indicator of an Autism Spectrum Disorder and children with other special education needs, such as ADHD, may struggle to form relationships with their peers,” Ockwell-Smith explains. “But often the issue is more adults expecting children to behave like adults.”

But introversion in and of itself is not a problem that needs to be corrected. “Some adults prefer to be alone—I’m an introverted only child and, at 41, still generally prefer to be me in my own company,” Ockwell-Smith says. “Allow them to be themselves—even if it’s very different to how you were as a child, or think they should be. The worst thing you can do is try to change them—try to make them more sociable, or play more with others—this almost always backfires!”

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How to Prepare Kids to Spend Time Alone

May 10, 2018 in Fatherly, Parenting

Parenting is the fullest of full-time gigs. But there comes a time, however, when a kid’s ability to entertain themselves becomes developed enough for dad to enjoy an entire cup of coffee uninterrupted or to complete a workout. Still, it can be difficult for parents to understand what age can kids stay home alone. Eventually, they are old enough and independent enough for parents to leave the house to run a 20-minute errand or make an hour-long trip to the grocery store — but that takes a while. Still, moments of independence can help kids get comfortable with the idea of solitude and even teach them to be comfortable in their own company, a critical life skill.


“It depends on the safety of the environment that you’ve set up. It’s really easy to leave a non-mobile infant — who can’t go anywhere — for ten minutes at a time, as long as they are entertained, they are not upset, and they are happy,” says Dr. Claire Vallotton, Associate Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies department of Michigan State University. “With a toddler, it’s harder because they’re mobile. They’re going to come and get you.”

Younger toddlers are very social, and really need a connection with a caregiver and a lot of stimulation, Vallotton says. At this stage, parents can expect to only have a few minutes alone before they are reunited. With advancing toddlerhood, however, comes increasing levels of cognitive development, and once toddlers are able to sustain play that is driven by their imagination, time away from Dad can increase. This time alone is good for toddlers too, Vallotton says, as it gives them space to be immersed in goal-directed play.

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“If they are of a temperament to sustain their own play, and they have the cognitive skills to do that, it’s really good for them to have the opportunity to have uninterrupted time,” Vallotton says.

Construction games, art projects, and imaginative play such as pretending to cook or playing with figures and creating scenarios are ideal activities that allow toddlers to control their own play and elaborate on it themselves.

Parents will recognize this stage when their kid begins asserting some independence, which comes at around age two. “Parents will know their child is getting to this stage when their child starts insisting on doing things on their own begin hearing words such as ‘no!’ or ‘I do it!’” says Dr. Tricia van Rhijn, Assistant Professor of Family Relations and Human Development at the University of Guelph in Toronto. “Having some unattended time allows children to begin developing their independence and self-efficacy beliefs as they will work through challenges.”

ALSO: How to Teach a Kid to Get Dressed Alone

Parents should work up to longer and longer periods where they leave their child unattended, van Rhijn says, and they should keep younger kids well within earshot. A trip to the basement gym might be OK, so long as the child can still be heard. “Parents should check in occasionally to ensure their child’s well-being, and to make sure they’re not getting into something they shouldn’t,” van Rhijn says. “These check-ins should occur more frequently when their children are younger”, as parents gradually increase the time.

How to Leave Your Kid Alone So You Can Get Stuff Done

  • Follow their cues. If your toddler wants to complete a project alone, let them—use the opportunity to check some items off your to-do list.
  • Remain within earshot. Young kids do an excellent job of destroying things, making messes, and getting into peril, so remain vigilant.
  • Wait until they are engaged. When your kid is absorbed in an activity, they don’t need interruptions from you—but don’t force this engagement with TV.
  • Check in often. Make sure they know where you are, how to get you, and that you are close.
  • Codify some ground rules. If you’re leaving an older kid home alone, make sure they know exactly what is allowed and what isn’t, and who to contact in an emergency.
  • Check the laws. Most states leave the decision on when is the right time to leave a kid home alone but be sure to check the laws in your state before venturing out.

It’s important that parents follow their kid’s lead and not enforce time alone.

“Parents should always tell their child where they can be found,” van Rhijn says. “This is not only about meeting their child’s need, but also about respect.”

If a parent needs a window of time to do something important, they should explain this to the child and give a reason why they shouldn’t be disturbed, van Rhijn says. “Having a specific reason some of the time that you share with your child teaches about being respectful and allows them to begin differentiating times when you can’t be disturbed and when you can,” van Rhijn says.

MORE: The Case for ‘Precision Parenting’

As kids get older, parents can continue to allow them more and more independence, leading to periods of time out of earshot and then, eventually, out of the house.

“Many children are ready to be left alone for brief errands around 10-12 years of age [but] it really depends on the child,” van Rhijn says. Another factor to consider is state laws, which can mean legal implications that trump paternal instinct.

When kids are ready to be left alone for longer periods of time, parents should lay down some clearly defined rules. And there should be some guidelines regarding television and devices as well.

“Children do not need to have everything laid out for them; let them find their own activities,” says van Rhijn. “There is lots of information out there about the importance of allowing children to become bored and the connections to creative development.”

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