Sue Scheff: Parenting Teens After School

Although years ago having at least one parent at home when kids came home from school was common, today it is far from common.  With both parents usually working to make financial ends meet, or many more single parents, it has become almost impossible for some families to have a parent at home when their teen comes home from school.  As a teen, it is assumed that parental supervision isn't necessary, but this is not about babysitting, as much as it is about being a parent. 

Recently Connect with Kids posted a very timely and informational article on "Split Shift Parenting."  Take the time to learn more.

Source: Connect with Kids

Split Shift Parenting

“Maybe shoplift or go get high with their friends – there [are] a lot of different things [teens] could be doing after school.”

– Dwan, 18 years old

The after school hours are prime-time for kids of all ages to get into trouble if there is no parent around. But some families are experimenting with "split-shift" parenting that makes sure there is always one parent with the kids every day after school.

As a teenager, Dwan spent most of her time after school without her parents' supervision. Spending time alone, she found that trouble was her best after-school companion.

"I was smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol," says Dwan, 18. "Those were my big problems."

The After School Alliance finds that over 15 million kids have no supervision after school. And studies show that the highest levels of juvenile crime occur in the afternoon and early evening when there are no adults around.

"Maybe shoplift or go get high with their friends – there [are] a lot of different things they could be doing after school instead of going straight home."

But a new trend in parenting may help. It's called split-shift parenting: Both parents work, but it's a tag-team schedule.

"So it's different days ... I'll work Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and he'll work Tuesday and Thursday," says Kelly Barrows, a mother of two.

Kelly and Kevin Barrows made the switch to spend more time with younger children. Their 7-year-old daughter Christina appreciates the new schedule.

"I think [it's] important because you get to spend time with your family," Christina says.

Her father agrees: "We get to teach them as we want them to be taught. They can learn what we want them to learn without too many outside influences."

And the new research suggests split-shift parenting is a good alternative for parents rearing older children as well. It sends an important message to children young and old, experts say.

"[It says] that 'I'm important,'" says psychologist Dr. Allen Carter. "Here are the two most important people in the world to me, and they are saying, 'I'm important.'"

Statistics show that "split-shift parenting" is on the rise as America moves toward a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week economy. This recent trend affects American families in many ways, according to sociologist Harriet Presser. He says split-shift parenting schedules may have a positive effect, with one result being fathers who are more involved with their children. But there are long-term costs to marriages that may offset this benefit. Research shows that when men work nights and are married less than five years, the chance of separation or divorce five years later is six times that of men who work days. For women who work nights and who are married more than five years, the chance of separation or divorce is three times as high.

However, the Employee Worklife Center of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says split-shift parenting's rewards can outweigh the stresses if parents follow certain guidelines:

■Make sure it's your choice. The most important factor in split-shift parenting is that both partners want to do it.
■Keep talking. Be vigilant about sharing responsibilities and keeping the lines of communication open.
■Embrace your different lifestyle. Create your own family holidays and celebrations at dates and times convenient for you.
■Be organized. Keep a large family calendar with everything written on it.
■Get help if you need it, and make sure to sleep. Remember to ask for assistance from your spouse, or from a network of friends and family.
■Re-evaluate regularly. Remember, your child's needs will change over time, and what works today may not work in the future.

Tips for Parents

The Employee Worklife Center at NOAA offers six "strategies" that parents can use in order to balance work and family:

■Prioritize: Prioritizing allows you to take control of your life by deciding what is most important and what can be left undone.
■Organize: Being organized helps to save time and energy. Make to-do lists for both work and home.
■Communicate effectively: The busier we are, the harder it is to take the time to really connect with people. Establish eye contact, be honest, listen and ask questions.
■Set limits: Learning to say "no" is not an easy skill to acquire, but is important for your own well-being. If you are saying "yes" to everyone, you are saying "no" to yourself.
■Delegate: Involve your family as a team. Give clear instructions with a deadline. Be willing to let go of the way you do things and accept the way others do them.
■Establish support systems: Support systems will help you cope when the unexpected happens.

References
■Employee Worklife Center at NOAA
■University of Maryland

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