By Jamell Andrews
Along with trying to combat the dreaded summer vacation boredom that’s bound to rear its ugly head on an occasion or two, parents of older children also find themselves scrambling for child care solutions when school’s out but work isn’t.
Summer child care isn’t just challenging to figure out, but expensive too, with the average family spending as much as $1116 per child over the summer on care and activities, according to the 2012 America Express Spending and Saving Tracker report.
There are several factors to consider when planning summer child care for older children. For starters, you need to consider their maturity level. You should also consider your child’s comfort level when it comes to time spent alone. Just because you think your 13 year-old is mature enough to be alone while you’re at work doesn’t mean that they’re comfortable with the idea of so much alone time. Also, studies have found that being left to care for themselves can have serious consequences, with one study finding children who are left alone for 3 hours or more often suffer low self-esteem and depression, and are more likely to do poorly in school. Other studies have linked being left to care for themselves for a few hours a week to drug and alcohol use.
Summer Child Care Ideas
When thinking about summer child care, especially for older children, you need to think outside the box when looking for solutions for an older child’s care, since most will cringe at the idea of having a “babysitter”.
The following are some ideas to help you make their summer fun while also giving you the peace of mind that they’re being looked after while you’re at work:
- Time with friends. While your older kid may not like the term “play date”, arranging with other parents to have your child spend time with a friend is an excellent and affordable option. As children get older their friends become more important to them. Make arrangements with a friend’s parent to have your child spend a day or two with them and offer to return the favor when you’re able.
- Time with family. Though they may outgrow their enthusiasm of a week with the grandparents once they reach their teens; a week or two spent at a relative’s home is an affordable solution that can also help strengthen the family bond. There’s also that old saying that the grandparents’ house is where cousins become best friends. Make their time there even more special by arranging time with cousins and other relatives closer to your child’s age.
- Volunteering. Depending on your child’s age, having them volunteer can be a great way to keep them occupied when you’re not home. Talk to your child about causes that they care about and suggest volunteering at an animal shelter or other organization. Volunteer opportunities can be easily found online or by contacting different organizations directly.
- Camps. Day camps or sleepaway camps can be a fun way for your child to spend part of their summer. Not only does this provide a solution for child care, but it can also help build their independence and give them amazing experiences that they’ll cherish. There are different types of camps to choose from, from those that focus on sports to art and music camps. If money is an issue, look into day camps, as well as church and community camps, which tend to cost less than traditional sleep away camps.
- Work from home. More and more employers are allowing employees to work from home. If your job is one that can be done from home, speak to your boss about the possibility of working from home even if just a day or two each week over the summer to help offset child care costs.
There are many options available if you think outside the box. Older children will appreciate the opportunity to provide their input and be a part of the planning, so involve them in the process to help ensure a fun summer vacation for them and a less stressful summer for you.