During middle childhood, children need adult supervision. While some parents have their children return each afternoon to an empty home, these “latchkey” kids are more susceptible to misbehavior, risk-taking, and anxiety. For this age group, the AAP recommends that a child come home to a parent, other adult, or a responsible adolescent.
Dinner should be an important time for your family. As often as possible, all family members should eat together at the dinner table, without the distraction of televisionor radio. During dinner the family can share the day’s activities and participate in enjoyable conversation. Everyone should be encouraged to take part, and negative comments and criticism should be discouraged.
On school nights, children need a regular time to go to sleep. Lights can go out at different times for different children in the family, depending on how much sleep each child needs. Nighttime rituals can help ease a child to sleep. These rituals can include storytelling, reading aloud, conversation, and songs. Try to avoid exciting play and activities before bedtime.
Weekends are good times for family togetherness. You might go grocery shopping as a family, visit museums and zoos, do chores that everyone participates in, go on hikes or bike rides, or attend religious services. On weekends children in the middle years can usually be allowed a later bedtime than during the week. Keep in mind that, although family time is essential, it is equally important for parents to set aside some time just for themselves, too.
One of a family’s greatest challenges is to establish comfortable, effective routines, which should achieve a happy compromise between the disorder and confusion that can occur without them and the rigidity and boredom that can come with too much structure and regimentation, where children are given no choice and little flexibility.