Ah, it’s that time of year. Summer! Daffodils have sprouted and the cherry blossoms bloomed… seasonal allergies are flaring up. It’s also the time of year where the school year is winding down and kids are getting excited about summer vacation.  Now parents have to consider what activities can occupy their teen for those 6.5 hours of the day that they would have been in school.

With each of my patient visits that happen this time of year I ask everyone what their summer plans are. Some are taking big trips to other countries, some will be going to volunteer at camps they attended as young kids, and others just reply, ‘nothing.’ It made me wonder about a few questions…

When is a teen old enough to stay home alone? What opportunities are out there to occupy time? Should teens find a first job? Do they need to take make up classes? Should they be left to just ‘hang out’ with friends?

To tackle the first question of when is a child old enough to stay home alone, I ask parents to think of how much responsibility they’ve already given their teen. If a parent trusts the child to prepare a meal, complete chores, and know when to call for help, they are likely old enough to stay home alone. Staying home without an adult is a lot of responsibility, so families will definitely want to think about the maturity of their child. It may be a good idea to have someone ‘check in’ periodically, especially if there is more than one child at home without any adult supervision. (More to come on staying home alone in future posts…)

In order to address the last few questions, I’ve included some helpful resources for Washington State. There are lots of volunteer activities available and work permits are available for those teens over age 14.  Both volunteering and getting that first job are great ways to learn responsibility, time management, and how to get yourself places on time. They also give teens something to talk about when they returns to school in the Fall (and if it’s a job that occupied their time, some spending money as well!)

Volunteer opportunities around the Seattle area

Seattle Humane Society

Work permit and hourly limits for minors in Washington