Understanding Latch Key “Kid” LIFE

Understanding LatchKey Life.  Terence Morris, author and founder, PACE TULSA AGS FOUNDATION.  October 7, 2017.  2:15 PM.  If you would like to Join PACE TULSA Simply TEXT:  PACEPAC  TO:  22828.  Enter your email address and you’re IN. That Simple!

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“School age children are sometimes left alone before and after school because parents are working or otherwise not supervising. The effects of latchkey status on the development of children are poorly addressed in the literature.”

My First experience as a “latchkey kid”

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“How do parents provide supervision for their school age children when they work? I can remember as a young man…How my parents, once I started 5th grade, just decided that I needed to have “my own key” to our front door.  Being 10 yrs. old is very exciting, however, there are not many responsibilities thrown your way at such an early age.  Having access to our “family door” at the time, was an “endearing step,” in my mind, to what I would eventually see as a huge responsibility.  While eating dinner, my father brought one of his old shoe strings over to me at the dinner table and placed a key next to my half eating vegetables and entree.  He says, “Terence, your mom and I are giving you the key to the house and you need to tie it around your neck to make sure you don’t lose it.  We are working in the evenings at the same time school is ending this year and we are not going to make it home in time to let you in the house.”  I shrugged it off because I didn’t want him to think I was lame for being excited about having a house key.  Deep inside of my mind I was smiling ear-to ear.  Finally, “they realize I can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.”  This was my opportunity to be a “big kid!” And I was not going to intentionally do anything to mess this up.  Since I would be wearing it around me neck:  My teacher’s could see it; My friends could see it; and any stranger could see it.  I was not arriving at a point in my young life that I had something to prove.

Many “latchkey” children experience stressful and even dangerous situations without ready access to adult guidance and support. It is estimated that as many as 10 million children care for themselves before or after school. Many latchkey kids begin their self-care responsibilities at about 8 years of age. (American Journal of Nursing Science. Volume 4, Issue 4, August 2015, Pages: 207-211Eight years old is very young to feel like you have something to prove.  

Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory of moral agency was developed in order to explain how adults with seemingly well-established moral standards can engage in inhumane and egregious behavior against others without apparent self-recrimination. Over the past decade, a growing body of research has explored the applicability of his theory in understanding aggressive behavior among children and youth, with consistent demonstration of links between aggression and one’s tendency to morally disengage, justifying or rationalizing such behavior through a number of different cognitive mechanisms. 

Whatever the fear is at the time your parent’s decide to make you a “latchkey kid” all fly out of the window when it is necessary for your parents to work to support your family.  The results of being given this responsibility are all a matter of social experimentation.

Here are some quick tips to help keep your “latchkey kid safe.”

•Teach children how to use the phone and lock the doors; list police, fire department and other important phone numbers.

•Walk through the routine with the child; some have been given keys to the house and then can’t reach the lock.

•Don’t let the child display a key in public—it’s a sure sign he spends time alone.

•Instruct children to tell callers that the parent is “busy,” rather than to indicate that they are home alone.

•Structure activities, such as an art project, a “treasure hunt” or other at-home games.

•Arrange for the child to spend some afternoons with friends to break the monotony of being alone five days a week.

•Consult with police and fire officials to burglarproof and fireproof your home as much as possible.

•Get a pet, which may help comfort the child.

•Teach children that independence and resourcefulness are virtues, but don’t overload the circuits. Don’t leave them alone too young or too long or give them too many responsibilities. Let them voice fears.

 

Terence Morris(@pacetulsa) is the author and founder of PACE TULSA a global think-tank focusing on intersecting awareness of educational opportunities within pedestrian crosswalks and public transportation policy in the United States.
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