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Feature

Time spent planning for those summers when children seem too old for daycare but too young to be home alone is well spent.

"Tweens," working parents, and summer plans

U parents share approaches to planning for their 8- to 12-year-olds

By Anita Rios

From Brief, May 5, 2004

They're not young children anymore and they're not teens. They're "tweens"--children between the ages of 8 and 12. They are midway between early childhood and adolescence, and they lean more toward teen styles, attitudes, and behavior. Working parents of 8- to 12-year-olds can find this a tough age to plan for during the summer months, when their children may seem too old for daycare but are still too young to be home alone. I recently asked some University parents what they do to keep their "tweens" busy over summer vacation. "By early April of each year, I start patching together a week-by-week summer schedule for my now-10-year-old Emma that rivals the Queen of England's in complexity and variety," says Mary Knatterud, associate professor in the Department of Surgery. Emma's summer consists of day camps at the Bell Museum and St. Paul Gym, public school enrichment courses, community education tennis class, Girl Scout activities, summer school, and overnight church camps. Knatterud jokes that she often needs to slap color-coded Post-it notes on her family members' foreheads to remember where they're headed each day.

Resources for 8- to 12-year-olds

Summer camps
--Selected camps on the Work/Life Web site
--Summer camps introduce youth to the U

Summer school options
Check with your local school district for free or subsidized summer school programs. These are usually half-day programs that can be combined with day care arrangements. Local libraries also offer summer reading programs, book clubs, and activities that can be combined with day care arrangements.

Guidelines
For useful information on leaving children home alone and for babysitting age guidelines, see http://www.nccic.org/faqs /homealone.html.

Internet projects
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has five new Internet projects designed for America's 16 million children between the ages of 9 and 12. These innovative Web sites, scheduled to launch this spring and summer, inaugurate a new generation of creative educational destinations on the Internet, a place where children are spending more of their time. Two of the sites, "It's My Life" and "Don't Buy It," launched April 15. Check out the preview pages at www.pbskids.org/itsmylife and www.pbskids.org/dontbuyit. The other three sites are scheduled to launch at the end of the summer.

Cobbling together multiple summer programs seems to be the favored strategy of parents with children this age, and it's even more complicated for working parents who have more than one child. Arne Johnson, marketing manager in the College of Continuing Education, has a nine-year-old son and two daughters, ages six and four. "I had a heck of a time finding an in-home daycare," he says. "I was very concerned with my son being bored all summer long with younger kids around." Johnson eventually did find an in-home daycare in south Minneapolis with another nine-year-old. For an extra $35 per week, the children will go to a city-sponsored program called "Big Shots" at a local park. The program runs from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, so they get a chance to have fun, do something educational, and be around other kids their age. Plans can also include vacations with family, grandparents, or other relatives, and drop-off daycare centers.

Some statistics on "tweens"

Between 1988 and 1995, the proportion of girls who said they had sexual intercourse before 15 rose from 11 percent to 19 percent. Boys remained stable at 21 percent.

The past decade has seen more than a doubling of the proportion of eighth-graders who have smoked marijuana (10 percent today) and of those who no longer see it as dangerous.

Suicide among 8- to 12-year-olds more than doubled between 1979 and 1995. Therapists say they are seeing a growth in eating disorders--anorexia and obsessive eating--even among girls in late elementary school, doubtless an outgrowth of a premature fashion-consciousness.

Source: "Kids Today Are Growing Up Way Too Fast," by Kay S. Hymowitz, Wall Street Journal, October 28, 1998.

Though trying to manage summer schedules filled with numerous arrangements can be expensive and feel "crazy-making" at times, Peggy Rader, director of communications in the College of Education and Human Development, looks back fondly on her son's "tween" summers. "The University's summer programs and the Bell Museum provided my son's 'tween' summers with tons of amazing and interesting camps and activities," Rader says. Her son, now 17, studied astronomy, went canoeing and kayaking, studied dead bodies (forensics), roller-bladed, climbed walls and rocks, and built a Web page. "We used the camps heavily for five years, and he was never bored," says Rader. She adds one cautionary note: "You really have to register in March--the most popular camps fill up incredibly fast."

Anita Rios is the coordinator of the Work/Life Initiative in the Office of Human Resources.

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