As children go through primary school and into high school, more and more of the parents who used to be full-time stay-at-home parents start to enter the workforce. Unfortunately, the full-time work hours of many offices do not co-ordinate with the much shorter days or the school system, or the long school holidays. Studies have shown that childcare for older children can be just as important as childcare for younger children, as unsupervised teens and preteens are more likely to smoke, use alcohol and drugs if they spend more than 11 hours a week unsupervised.
If you are trying to work out the best option for after-school care, here are some things to keep in mind.
Local community centre after school programs
While you may not be able to put your teen into the neighbourhood 0-5 daycare centre, many community centres have after-school programs for teens and preteens with sporting activities and an area for the kids to complete homework and spend time with friends. These programs can be great fun for your teens to attend, and give your teen a chance to do some social interaction time in a supervised environment. Any fees for the program should be eligible for the childcare rebate if this is a 'approved care' program, as assessed by the government.
If you can get home early one or two afternoons a week, you can often organise a swap with other class parents so that a few times a week your child can go to another child's home and be supervised by their parent and then you supervise the children on another day. This can be a particularly good option if you have a changing shift pattern, and may need to swap after school care on different days each week.
Grandparent (or other relative) care
While you may not have grandparents close by to look after the kids each day, it can sometimes be an effective option in the send your children to visit their grandparents or other relatives on the school holidays. Children can fly unsupervised on any domestic flight and will be supervised by the air stewards while in the air. This can be a great way for your family to get to know your children more, especially if they don't live locally.
With the long school holidays approaching it can be worth investigating sensible childcare options to keep your teenagers supervised and out of trouble for the vacations and after school.
I work as a nurse, and I'm separated from my husband, so it's quite complicated for us to work out child care sometimes. We have an family child care centre down the road that is amazing and does so much to keep our family ticking when we need child care out of hours. I know I'm not the only one who needs flexibility in child care, and I know that a lot of other parents are also struggling with the juggle of managing child care out of the normal opening hours of a centre. This blog is a place to share ideas and solutions we have worked out, with each other.