Last Updated February 22nd, 2018

Beating Stay at Home Mom Isolation

Beating Stay at Home Mom Isolation

It’s been one of those days. The kids are screaming. You were lucky to get a shower this morning – if you did at all. The laundry is piling up, as are the bills. You’re always surrounded by your beloved children, yet you’ve never felt so alone. Stay at home mom isolation has you in its grip. There has to be a way to beat this thing.

The feeling of isolation is often the price to be paid for the privilege of being a stay at home mom. It goes along with the loss of income and privacy. Many a stay at home mom quickly notices a feeling of isolation, not only when she first starts out at home, but also when circumstances cause her to lose touch with the outside world.

Isolation is painful. It doesn’t matter that you adore your children or that all the other stay at home moms you know are counting their blessings and seem to be having a blast. Sometimes the personal sacrifice of less time with other adults really stings.

It’s even harder when you run into people who tell you that you should just be grateful for the time you have with your children. You can be grateful for that yet still feel isolated. There is nothing that says those two things can only be felt separately. Being told to be grateful doesn’t solve the problem – it only makes the SAHM feel guilty for her own feelings.

You don’t have to feel completely alone. No matter how young your children are there are things you can do to get some time with other adults and beat those lonely feelings.

Run Errands

Something as simple as running errands can help. It’s not much time with other people, and you probably won’t have a real conversation with anyone other than the cashier as you check out, but it can relieve some of that isolated feeling.

Running errands won’t solve your isolation – it’s just not enough. It’s better than nothing, especially if you know when friends run errands. A lot of parents in my area, for example, run errands after dropping the kids at school. Chatting with the ones I encounter makes my errands take longer than necessary, but it’s so nice to talk to other adults!

Go Fun Places

If the children are old enough, heading to the park or to a museum can help with stay at home mom isolation. The park is particularly enjoyable if you can arrange for another mom to be there, ideally with kids for yours to play with. The children get exercise; you get time to talk with another grownup who knows what you’re dealing with.

You don’t have to take the kids along for all your fun outings if someone else can take care of them. Your spouse can handle them for a little if you want to go out on your own, maybe meet up with friends, or you can get a sitter so you can go out together. Time away from your kids really helps refresh you for later.

Join A Mom Group

There are also various moms groups you can sign up for if you don’t know any other stay at home moms in your area. Stay at home moms can be hard to spot, but you might be surprised at how many are in your area.

You can find groups online or form your own as you meet other stay at home moms. It can take some time to find a group that’s a good match, but it’s worth the effort.

Socialize Online

Going online really can help. Join a forum on a topic that interests you. Read blogs. Start one of your own. It’s all a chance to express yourself and at least virtually interact with people who share your interests.

There are mom groups all over the place online. You can probably find one with parents you’ll enjoy chatting with. Search for them on Facebook and BabyCenter (it’s not all about babies) for starters.

There will be drama in most groups from time to time. It happens. Friends disagree in person too, right? It may be a bit rougher in a large group with more people to argue, but it’s normal. Sometimes it will be bad enough that you decide to leave the group, or others will decide to leave. Other times you can agree to disagree and move on.

Volunteer

Find a place to volunteer, with or without the kids, depending on what’s available in your area.

My kids and I have volunteered at a local animal shelter for several years now. The employees and other regular volunteers all know us. While most of our time is spent with the animals, we get to chat a little with customers and the others who work there. It’s a lot of fun.

Work At Home

Starting a work at home job or a home business can help you feel less isolated. This can be challenging when the kids are tiny and need a lot of attention. Doing something super flexible is easiest, even if it doesn’t bring in as much money as it might otherwise.

This is why I like blogging. You can write when the kids are sleeping, playing peacefully, or when your spouse is around to be the main parent. Starting a blog is easy… making it profitable is more challenging. I consider it worthwhile.

Don’t Feel Bad About Feeling Isolated

Some stay at home moms will insist to you that they never feel isolated, as though you shouldn’t either. But if you ask them about it, you will find out that these are the moms who already have a good network of friends and family they can talk to and do things with regularly. They aren’t lonely because they don’t allow it to happen.

Don’t Feel Bad About Being Frustrated

We all have bad days. When the kids are acting up and making life difficult, any parent will get frustrated. Sometimes you just have one of those days where it all goes wrong.

As you get used to being a stay at home mom and develop friendships with people who can be there when you need someone other than a child to talk to, you can get control over stay at home mom isolation. It doesn’t have to be a problem forever.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 15th, 2018

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

Letting kids stay home alone for the first time is a big deal. It’s a mark of maturity and parental trust. The hard part for the parents is deciding when it’s appropriate and for how long. Your idea of when to let your kids stay home alone may not match what they want.

But it isn’t all about what you think, or even what an individual child thinks. You have to consider a few things before you can let your kids stay home alone, for their safety and protection.

State Law

The laws on when kids can stay home alone vary from state to state, but most states decline to give an actual age requirement. Many give recommended ages, which can range from age 8 to 14. Considering that most places kids can start babysitting at age 12, I consider older than that to be overly strict on the state’s part. That’s something you have to consider when you’re making this decision.

A part of the rules effective in your state will depend on how safe the situation is. Being home alone for a while during the day is very different from being home alone all night.

Contacting CPS is an option if you aren’t certain about the rules in your area. Some of you will think this is a great idea. Some will consider it terrible. They may or may not give you good information. Sometimes you’ll get someone with very different ideas of what is safe versus what the law says. You don’t have to talk to them about it if you don’t want to. If other parents in your area have had problems, it may be a good idea. Facing legal issues over what you considered to be a good parenting decision would be hard.

Where Do You Live?

In asking where you live in this case, I don’t mean which state. We’ve looked at state laws already.

What we’re looking at here is the kind of neighborhood you live in. Do you feel safe letting your kids be home alone in your neighborhood?

There are neighborhoods where it’s a higher risk to have your kids home alone there than it would be elsewhere. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your kids home alone due to your neighborhood. You have to consider it, but it’s not something you can easily change. It’s not like “move” is a realistic answer for most families.

Maturity of Your Child

The simple truth of the matter is that some kids are ready to stay home alone sooner than others. You know your children best. You can decide when they’re ready to stay home alone for short periods and when you can be gone longer.

Your kids may be ready to stay home alone when you’re confident that your child won’t break too many of the rules you set for when you’re gone, such as having friends over, answering the door, cooking, and so forth. They should also know how to deal with minor problems and what to do in case of an emergency. They should know how to reach you at need. Cell phones are wonderful in this regard, as it makes it much easier for a child to reach a parent who is out and about.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if the kids don’t follow all the rules you set every time. Do you really think they’ll be perfect about screen time limits when you’re not around? Keep them reasonable. If your kids are like mine, you’ll come home to kids rushing to get assigned chores done. It’s normal. So long as the rules aren’t broken too badly, it’s rarely a big deal. But if the infraction is serious, deal with it appropriately.

Most of these rules should loosen up as your kids get older. They’re going to move out someday, and you want them comfortable doing normal adult things by then.

My son, for example, is about to have his first day alone without even siblings home. It’s his choice. I have to be an appraiser for his younger sister’s Destination Imagination tournament, and my husband has to be there with her. My oldest daughter has an archery tournament. I gave my middle child the choice of which to attend or to stay home, and home is what he chose. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. We’ll all be gone a significant chunk of the day. He knows he can call us if he needs help, and he has the phone numbers of various friends he could call if he needed an adult sooner than we could get back.

Siblings

A child with older siblings able to watch him or her can stay home without a parent younger than one without older siblings present. A child who has to watch younger siblings will need to be older before being allowed to watch them without parents home. Taking care of yourself and siblings is a much bigger deal than taking care of yourself.

I think about how old I was when I started babysitting, which included watching actual babies. I was 12.

That’s probably a pretty good age, state laws permitting, so long as your older kids are familiar with what the younger needs. They should also be fairly patient with the younger.

How Long?

How long are you going to leave your kids alone matters too. You can trust kids while you run a quick errand younger than you might trust them to be alone for a few hours.

For example, I’m willing to let my youngest stay home for a short time while I pick up her older siblings from school. Longer than that she’s not ready for.

They should also be a bit older if food preparation is required. Snacks may not be so difficult to deal with once rules are agreed upon. If a meal needs to be prepared, there’s more responsibility required of your child. This is true even if it’s just popping something in the microwave. It’s all too easy for an accidental burn to happen while taking food out of the microwave. Your child should know how to handle that without panicking.

Can Someone Come Help If Needed?

It’s a huge help if your kids know which neighbors or nearby family friends they can call upon at need. Most times, no one will be needed. On rare occasions, things happen. They need a trusted adult faster than you can come home. Plan for it so it’s not a bigger problem than it has to be.

Don’t make letting your kids stay home alone be a burden on neighbors or friends. If your kids need help from them often, they’re too young to be alone.

How Will They Contact You?

Make sure your kids know how to contact you in an emergency, even if it will take you a while to get home.

Most times, this is easy. Most of us have cell phones. If you don’t have a landline phone in your home, make sure your kids still have a way to contact you, of course.

There is an extra challenge if you’re somewhere that you cannot use your cell phone. Some jobs won’t let you carry one, for example. It’s rude, of course, to have your phone ringing at the movie theater or at a performance. Other times, there isn’t cell coverage where you’re going.

At these times, you need to have a backup plan for your kids. If they can’t reach you, who should they call?

What Options Do You Have?

Sometimes you aren’t entirely happy about leaving your child home alone, but you don’t have other options. If your child isn’t ready to be home alone, you will need to find a way to deal with that. You may need to talk to a family member, friend or neighbor about helping you out, or hire a babysitter. Sometimes you can arrange a playdate with one of your child’s friends when you need to get out without your child. If leaving your child alone isn’t the right choice, you have to pick an alternative and make it work.

When it comes right down to it, guidelines or no guidelines, and even state law, you know best when your child is ready to stay home alone and for how long. If you don’t feel your child is ready when the law or guidelines say they can do it, you don’t have to push the matter.

Allowing your kids to stay home alone is an important step in developing their independence. Keep the rules reasonable and they’ll have a lot of fun.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 8th, 2018

How To Hold A (Relatively) Peaceful Slumber Party For Your Kids

How To Hold A (Relatively) Peaceful Slumber Party For Your Kids

When kids reach a certain age, they start begging to have friends over for sleepovers or to sleep at a friend’s house. While some families aren’t comfortable letting their kids sleep over at a friend’s house, it’s a pretty safe thing for them to do. When you and enough other parents are ready, it’s time to let someone be the first to host. If you know what you’re doing, you can make even this first one a relatively peaceful slumber party.

Don’t Invite More Than You’re Willing To Handle

The right number of kids is very important to a good slumber party. You don’t want more kids sleeping over than you’re comfortable with.

Because my youngest daughter’s recent slumber party was the first that any of her friends had had, I let her invite all the girls in her class. To keep the number who actually slept over down, however, I gave the parents an easy out by noting that the kids were just as welcome to come for a few hours as they were for overnight.

We had 10 guests for the party, but only three slept over.

Next year, we won’t invite nearly as many because I expect that more will be allowed to sleep over. I had several parents comment that now their kids wanted to do a slumber birthday party. I expect these are about to become common with her friends. We invited a lot because I knew for certain that not all would be allowed to stay.

Sugar Early

If you want the kids to sleep at all, get through the sugary parts of the party early on. Serve birthday cake and ice cream as soon as possible. It’s a party, so if you want to serve dessert before dinner, do it. No one will tell you you’re wrong.

The only sugar you want the kids to have later in the evening is in hot chocolate. Make hot chocolate with warm milk, not water, as a late treat for the kids. Warm milk is supposed to make people tired, after all. The hot chocolate makes it sound enough like a treat that most kids will be happy to drink it.

At my youngest daughter’s recent slumber birthday party, the kids were talking about grabbing the goodie bags in the evening, as the kids who couldn’t sleep over left. I didn’t allow that. Extra sugar at a time that you want the kids to start getting tired is not a good plan.

If the kids really need a snack, popcorn is a good choice. You’ll probably have to vacuum up the mess in the morning, but it won’t get the kids too wound up.

Keep Them Active At First

While having a bunch of kids running all around and being noisy is tiring for the parents, it’s also the best way to tire them enough that they might sleep later. Even if they don’t sleep, they might be tired enough to be quiet when you’re ready to sleep.

We’re lucky enough to have a large garage that has been set up as a playroom for the kids. Kids can get pretty wild in there. The backyard is usually fair game too. Don’t let the kids get too wild outside too late, or you’ll bother your neighbors, but otherwise, it’s a very good idea to get them running around.

Kids at a slumber party always want to stay up super late, if not all night. The more active you keep them early on, the better chance you have that they’ll either fall asleep or be content to play quietly.

Set Limits

What activities are you and the other parents okay with at a slumber party. Can the kids put on makeup? What shows or movies can they watch? When do things need to quiet down?

At my daughter’s recent slumber party, which movie to watch was a huge discussion among the girls because one family had very strict rules. She could only watch things her parents had previously approved.

Fortunately, that included a lot of Disney movies. They settled on Brave. Some of them started yelling at the screen when Merida got her first bow as a little girl and she wasn’t shooting it right. Archery is popular in our area, and some of the kids know full well how it should be done. It was kind of hilarious watching them yell about it.

Set aside places where the kids can’t go. My bedroom and any sibling bedrooms are off limits during slumber parties without specific permission. So is my home office. I now have a “Beware of Dragon” sign on my home office door. It fit with my daughter’s party theme, and I keep my fireplace dragon in my office for safekeeping during parties anyhow.

Have Parent Contact Information

You probably won’t need to contact any parents, but have contact information for them anyhow. I save all of them on my cell phone as they RSVP, but some parents also like to write it down at drop off.

Some kids will bring cell phones and be able to call their parents themselves, but I still like to have a number for my own use.

The younger the kids are, the more likely you are to need to call a parent. Minor injuries are common when they’re playing, and little kids can be very sensitive about what would be a minor disagreement to older kids. Sometimes a child who thinks they’re ready to sleep over at a friend’s house discovers late at night that they really aren’t ready for that.

Be Ready For Minor Accidents

Stuff happens when kids get together for a party. They play a little rough and bump heads. Someone trips and falls.

For these kinds of accidents, make sure your basic first aid kit is available. You don’t need anything fancy most of the time, but you should be ready. Excited kids get rough with each other sometimes.

You should also be ready for the kinds of accidents that involve spilling food or drink all over the place. Slumber parties can be messy. If there’s a place in your house where you can’t have that kind of a mess, don’t let them bring food or drink there.

And yes, be ready for bathroom accidents if the kids are younger. I’ve had to loan out clothing at sleepovers when a child got too busy playing to go to the bathroom on time. I kept things very matter of fact and found something for the child to wear. No need to embarrass them or let any of the other kids know what happened.

Keep the bathroom light on at night. Somebody will probably need it, and you want them to find it without any trouble at all.

The #1 Rule For A Peaceful Slumber Party

There is one rule my mother taught me about hosting a peaceful slumber party for kids. It strikes fear into the hearts of the children sleeping over, and they will try very hard to keep you from invoking the rule.

If you wake a parent, they get to join the party.

Trust me. Kids don’t want mom or dad joining the party. I’ve seen eyes go big at the mere mention of this rule.

You don’t have to explain what you’ll do if you have to join the party. The kids’ imaginations will usually do plenty. If they ask, I give an evil smile and tell them to wait and see. So far, that has always been enough.

When the kids are little, they get one reminder if they wake me. That’s the most I’ve ever had to do. I’ll sometimes hear kids shushing each other if things start to get a little loud, because while some kids might be willing to risk the consequences of having an adult join the party, most really, really don’t want that. So long as the noise gets under control quickly, I don’t actually join the party.

Do have a plan for if you have to join the party. My husband says he will make the kids watch nature documentaries. I don’t actually have a plan for what I would do (don’t tell my kids!), aside from trying to bore the kids, but I have no doubt that I could make them regret waking me – without so much as raising my voice.

We also have a rule that I’m the parent who will join the party if it’s girls sleeping over, while my husband would handle it for boys. I don’t expect any problems with either of us handling things, but some families are very sensitive about that.

Nine times out of ten, this rule will give parents a good night’s sleep without demanding that the kids go to sleep at a particular time. Anyone who has ever been to or hosted a slumber party knows how reluctant kids are to go to sleep at anything resembling a decent hour.

Do you have any tips for hosting a peaceful slumber party that doesn’t wear parents out? What do your kids like to do when they have friends sleep over?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 19th, 2018

How To Get Your Kids Talking

How To Get Your Kids Talking

How hard is it to get your kids talking? This varies quite a bit by age and personality. The toddler who narrates every minute of their day may become the teen who doesn’t want to talk about anything. You know communication with your kids is important, but it can be so difficult to get your kids talking. The question is how.

What works will change as you kids get older. Bringing out the board games for a family game night may get kids talking at one age, but be greeted with rolling eyes at another. Or they might play the game, but still not want to talk about what’s going on in their lives.

Let It Happen Naturally

This is my first recommendation to get your kids talking because it often works. Don’t pressure your kids to talk unless there’s a reason for it.

There will be times when you need to draw your kids out to have a good conversation, such as when you notice a change in mood, behavior, academics, interest in friends and so forth. Those are the times when you may need to give your child an extra nudge or ten to get them to open up to you.

But if all you do is push your kids to talk to you, they might feel pressured, which will make them reluctant to open up. Just think about how you felt at certain times in your childhood about having to talk about what was going on. Sometimes opening up was the best thing. Other times it wasn’t.

The easiest ways to get your kids talking is to give them lots of opportunities. Take one on one time with each child as opportunities arise. Go on a hike. Take them out for a special treat. Watch a movie together.

Sometimes the best opportunities come when you don’t expect them. My teen daughter and I got talking one evening in the garage (it’s set up as a play and relaxation zone for the kids), and kept it up past one in the morning. We considered making it a sleepover out there, but since there were actual plans for the morning decided to go to sleep in our rooms instead.

Suffice it to say that was a very good conversation. Ones like that don’t happen often, but they’re so much fun. But they can’t be planned. They come from letting things just happen.

Talk As A Family

It can also help if you all have conversations regularly as a family. That’s one of the good things about having at least one meal a day together at the table, no screens allowed. The conversations can flow all around the table without singling any one person out. That can ease the pressure some kids complain about when their parents keep asking them about their day.

Family game night is good for this as well. Give everyone a chance to pick the game so that no one is left out of it all of the time. This is especially important if there’s a wide range of ages or game interests.

We’ve had some interesting game nights where three kids were playing two different two person games at the same time, with the older ones taking turns playing the game the youngest really wanted with her. Everyone was happy with the solution and there was plenty of chatter.

Don’t Insist That It Be On Your Schedule

Kids do not always want to talk when you want them to. That’s okay. If they want to be quiet on the ride back home from school, it might just be so that they can wind down from their day.

I’ve found that if I let my teen be quiet on the days she doesn’t have anything she wants to talk about on the ride home, she really opens up when she needs to talk. I hear about it when a teacher or classmate is giving her problems. I hear about it when she’s worried about a friend. She even tells me the fun stuff sometimes. I don’t know that I would hear all that if I demanded a detailed answer about her day every time.

Talking to your kids shouldn’t be an interrogation, most of the time. Making a habit of having pleasant conversations will make it easier at those rare times when you need to be more insistent on a particular conversation.

But even if a particular conversation is urgent, you can often give your kids some downtime first if they need it. Difficult conversations are easier if both parties are relaxed.

Ask Open Ended Questions

Asking your kids open ended questions can help get them talking. It’s harder to give a short answer to an open ended question.

Of course, this doesn’t always work. How often have you asked your kids how their day went, and the only answer you get is that their day was fine. I get the single word answer pretty often to that one.

If you want your open ended questions to get interesting answers, you need to make the questions more interesting. If you ask the same thing day after day, you’re going to get a boring answer most days. Ask different questions each day to encourage them to talk more. Here are some question ideas to get you started.

Don’t Overreact

When your kids tell you about something that surprises you, worries you or otherwise makes you want to react strongly, try not to overreact.

Overreacting to things your kids tell you make it harder for them to tell you things in the future. It can even make them feel awkward telling you more about the thing you’re overreacting to.

If your kids think that you’re going to overreact to things you tell them, they won’t want to talk to you about them. It can be scary hearing about drug users at their school or uncomfortable dealing with a question about sex that you weren’t expecting, but a calm reaction will help your kids feel comfortable in these conversations. Your calm reaction might help them take your perspective more seriously on those big topics.

Do Things They Like With Them

Time you spend just having fun with your kids gives you opportunities to talk. This doesn’t have to be planned in advance or involve going anywhere together.

Play video games together. Make something. Play together. Things like this open up opportunities to talk naturally.

Really Listen

If you want to get your kids talking, you have to really listen, in ways that they know you’re paying attention. Ignore your phone and computer.

Some conversations with your kids everyone in the family can get involved with. Other times you may need to move to a more private place to get things going. Each has their advantages. That one on one time can be vital, but having more people in the conversation can take the pressure off.

Start Conversations Yourself

Not every conversation with your kids has to be you asking them questions. Talk to them about your day, current events, favorite shows or whatever you enjoy talking about with your kids. Don’t make every conversation about them.

Let Them Talk To Someone Else

There may be times when no matter what you try, your child just doesn’t want to talk about a problem. Try not to take it too personally, and think about someone else they might be willing to talk to. An aunt, uncle, grandparent, older cousin, family friend, etc., might be able to talk to your child about things they don’t want to tell you.

Don’t get upset about this. It’s normal. Be glad that they have someone they trust and can open up to. With luck, talking to someone else will eventually lead to them talking to you as well. But if it doesn’t, you can hope they got good advice elsewhere.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 11th, 2018

Help Keep Your Kids Safe Online

Keep Your Kids Safe Online

How much do you worry about your kids on the internet? Do you limit their access to certain sites or review their devices to see what they have been up to online? It can be hard at times to figure out the best ways to keep your kids safe online.

What you need to do varies quite a bit as your kids get older. You don’t want your younger kids to see inappropriate things. You worry about cyberbullying as kids get older. And there’s always the concern that they’ll give too much personal information to total strangers online, thinking that they are good enough friends.

It can be pretty scary. But you need to let your kids explore the internet while they’re still under your supervision, so that they can learn to avoid hazards when possible and to deal with hazards that can’t be avoided, while you’re there to help. Protecting them from the whole thing is not the answer.

There are many things you can do to help keep your kids safe online.

Decide On Limits To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

The limits you set on your child’s internet usage should vary by age. There are things a 5 year old shouldn’t do that are entirely appropriate for a 15 year old.

Some things may come down to the kind of language you want your kids exposed to. It can be difficult to find safe YouTube channels or online games for your kids.

Roblox, for example, is a very popular game, but it has often been controversial. Parents have complained about the chat feature and how easy it is for kids to friend complete strangers. Some say there is a huge bullying problem on Roblox, while others don’t.

Discuss as a family which websites and games are acceptable. Lay down some rules. Make sure both parents are on the same page with the rules. Give the children reasons for the rules. It’s easier to obey a rule when you understand why it’s a rule.

My kids always tell me when they want to try something new. The older ones have the password to install new apps on their phones, but they know to ask first. Same for installing software on the computer. The password simply ensures that they can’t claim they didn’t realize they were installing something. You type that thing in, you meant it. The youngest is not allowed to install anything.

Also have a talk about sharing personal information and photos, especially photos that might be considered sexual. Photos sent or received need to be talked about, as it may not be your child who sends the inappropriate picture, but having it on their phone is still a major problem.

Give Your Kids An Appropriate Level Of Trust

How much you trust your child online depends on you and your child. You do need to trust them a little.

Consider the age of your child, how they behave with friends, how they’re doing academically, and any other factors you think are relevant. Some kids need a lot more watching. Others will be quick to report the slightest problem and may need less supervision.

If you don’t trust your kids, first of all, they’ll know. Kids need to know they’re trusted in general. If they don’t feel that you trust them, it’s hard for them to feel like they need to earn that trust.

My kids know that for the most part, I trust them online. I have on occasion had to check on accounts when the kids didn’t ask me for help, but that has been rare, and the reason explained.

Be Ready For Mistakes

Mistakes will happen. My son one time tried to type in the website address of a site he played on regularly. It was on his new computer, and he typed the name in wrong.

You guessed it. The site came up claiming he had an awful virus and that he needed to click the link to take care of it.

Yeah, he knew better. He got me and I helped him shut down the browser without clicking the pop over. Then we ran a scan on the computer to ensure that no viruses or other malware had been installed on his brand new computer.

All he did wrong was type one letter wrong. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

That’s better than my oldest daughter, who did make the mistake of clicking on something claiming she had a virus. I had her sit through the entire scanning process and work through the problems as they came up. She was old enough that she should have known better. She now knows a lot more about the process of removing a virus, which is a good thing to know at her age anyhow.

Teach your kids that if they have any doubts about what’s on their computer to get an adult immediately. Don’t click anything.

Find out how the mistake happened. Was it a typo? What about a site that had previously been trustworthy, but has perhaps been hacked or has some other problem?

If the rules have been broken, deal with it appropriately. Don’t make things worse just because things went more wrong than your child expected. If the mistake results in a virus or malware being installed on your computer, have your child help if they’re old enough, so that they learn to handle it. This is pretty much a life skill these days. the things you use now to keep your kids safe online should help them throughout their lives.

Know Your Child’s Passwords

My kids all know that I expect to have all of their passwords. They know I won’t use them often, but that I reserve the right to check their accounts if I feel a need.

The easiest way to keep track of your child’s passwords is a password manager such as LastPass. LastPass offers a family account at a very reasonable price. This allows you to share passwords as a family. You can store the passwords to your children’s LastPass accounts in yours so you can always have access to the whole thing if you need it.

You can share passwords between accounts if you like. This allows you to decide if you want the kids to have easy access to the Netflix password, for example.

If you don’t want to use a password manager, have each child make a password sheet they keep somewhere safe that you can find. Kids are great at forgetting passwords. For the most part, their passwords are of relatively low importance, so long as their game and social media accounts have no access to credit cards or personal information. This is the one reason I let kids write their passwords down. It’s a bad habit otherwise.

Teach Your Child That You Can’t Believe Everything You See On The Internet

We had fun with this one when my oldest was small. We told her about the tree octopus and the miniature giraffe and convinced her that these were real by showing her pictures on the internet.

Once she was convinced, we taught her how to recognize that they weren’t real.

Teaching kids that they can’t believe everything they see on the internet is important, not just for their safety, but so they can do reports for school accurately. It matters when they’re adults too.

My kids’ school teaches them early on the basics of recognizing websites that are good resources for online research. I find their rules a little simplistic (.org does NOT ensure that it’s a reputable source!), but it’s a start.

Teach them to be suspicious of things that try too hard to get them to click on something, and especially of anything that wants money or wants to be downloaded. They won’t always be bad, but until they know how to recognize what’s safe, they should ask first.

Talk About The Hazards Of Social Media

There are a lot of good reasons to teach your kids to be careful in their use of social media. Cyberbullying over social media and texting applications is a huge problem.

There’s also the risk of strangers friending your child or just following their account. It’s easy to worry about the intentions of random strangers who follow a child on social media.

Many social media accounts can be kept private to some degree, with pictures and posts visible only to friends and followers. When you feel your kids are ready for social media, help them pick places where they can control who sees what they post.

Remember, there are good reasons why most social networks want users to be at least 13 years old. By that age, most kids can understand why they need to think about what they post.

Keep Online Use In Shared Areas Of The House

It is generally advised that you should keep all internet capable devices in shared areas of the house, and that’s generally good advice. Kids are less likely to deliberately do things online they know they shouldn’t when they know a parent could look over their shoulder at any moment.

This is, of course, more difficult with smartphones and tablets. You have to decide whether those are allowed to be used in bedrooms.

The challenge can be that kids will naturally want more privacy at the ages where you will worry most about inappropriate behavior. Older kids may get curious about porn or consider sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to others, or asking for such pictures from their friends.

Teach your children why they shouldn’t share such things. Say more than just “don’t do it;” explain why. Kids are more likely to obey if they understand that a rule is not arbitrary.

Be There For Your Child When There Is A Problem

When problems do come up, be there for your kids. Trusted friends can be involved in cyberbullying. A phone number can be shared with other kids in school and elsewhere, and suddenly the issue has become a bigger problem than your child can handle on their own.

If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, your role as parent is emotional support and figuring out what steps can be taken to stop it. Sometimes you may have to get school officials or law enforcement involved. Other times a talk with the other parents is sufficient

If your child is the cyberbully, it’s your job to make them stop it.  Talk about why and the serious harm cyberbullying can do.

If you need to talk more to your kids about cyberbullying, there are a number of videos that may help. Here’s an example.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.