Too many dangers in leaving children unattended, parenting commission warns

Too many dangers in leaving children unattended, parenting commission warns

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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PARENTS are being cautioned against leaving underage children at home unattended during online classes, while they go to work or to handle other business.

Among the myriad issues that have emerged as parents and children navigate the virtual learning landscape is the question of suitable childcare arrangements for those who are not able to work from home, or others who must “hustle” to provide for their households.

Head of the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) Kaysia Kerr stressed that there are too many dangers in leaving an underage child at home unattended, and that parents should find ways to avoid this practice.

She pointed out that parents could exercise options such as seeking assistance from the school at which their children are enrolled.

“You can have discussions with the school, so that they can be aware of the particular challenge you're having. Maybe the school will be able to negotiate some terms for you and your child, so that better arrangements can be made. At no point should we be leaving underage children at home,” she stated.

“For those parents who have to work, it's always been the commission's position that the safety of children is paramount, although we are not oblivious of the realities on the ground,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

Kerr said, where it is not practical to work from home, the commission is advocating for parents to partner with trustworthy individuals in their communities to supervise and care for their children while they are away.

The NPSC head stressed, however, that clear guidelines must be established for this type of arrangement.

“It takes a conversation with that person, [such as]: Should you have a challenge with the child, what are the steps, is there anything you need to know about my child, is he allergic to anything, does he or she learn [in] a particular way, what are the steps to take if my child refuses to carry out your directions,” she explained.

At the same time, the commission continues to urge parents to negotiate with their bosses to accommodate working from home or other flexible arrangements, where possible.

Parents who are leaving personal devices with their children are also being urged to ensure that these are cleared of inappropriate content.

“Make sure the parental controls are on, as your children would have access to certain sites,” she noted.

Additionally, she said parents should seek alternative means of staying in touch with their children while away from home.

“If there is someone at work whose phone you can borrow to place calls in the interim, just to check in, do so. If it is a situation where, based on your job, you're on the road, there must be somebody within the environment who you can borrow a phone from just to make a quick call,” she said.

Kerr also cautioned parents who have no choice but to leave their children in the care of others, including family.

“You have to ensure that you're empowering your child... that's why parameters and boundaries have to be communicated. You have to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations, and speak to your child about what to expect from an adult when the [person] is in charge... Every day, once you get home, you do a debriefing; you must ask questions and you listen for answers, and where you're unclear, you press for explanations,” she advised.

Kerr said, too, that parents should pay keen attention to any change in behaviour.

She stressed that the community response to the novel coronavirus pandemic also includes the workplace.

“So for those persons who have small children or children in general, and you believe that if you were to work remotely not only would you be productive but also because you have peace of mind, then that's a conversation that should be had with your bosses,” she stated.

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