What to Do After 12 Years Old

Updated on July 09, 2014
A.L. asks from Griffith, IN
22 answers

What do you do with your children once they are too old for after school programs? All of the programs in our area only go up to 12 years old. Sorry but I am not comfortable leaving my 13 year old home alone all day during the summer. During the school year for the hour and 30 min she would be home I am fine with, but not during the summer. I am trying to prepare for next year.

What do people do? Most of her friends have stay at home parent or the parents work split shift so someone is always around.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Just to give some insight. It is not the best area for her to be left alone and she is not as mature as some other girls her age, so that is why I am nervous about leaving her alone all day long. I honestly don't think she would get into trouble, but I am more nervous about what could happen with a teenager at home alone all day long with break ins and stuff that have been occurring in the area. I would never leave our youngest with her, sorry but she just does not pay attention to her, and my daughter is not the babysitting type. She is very much a tom boy. She will not go to sleep away camp, she tried it and hated it. I have asked some camps if she could be a CIT and we would still pay for her to go there, but so far I have not found anyone willing to do it. I will have to keep looking. I hate asking other parents to have her tag along, it feels like I am asking for such a huge favor.

More Answers



answers from Boston on

Visit your local Boys and Girls clubhouse to see the summer programs in action.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We have teen camps through the city where I live. Have you looked into anything like that? If not through the city, maybe through the YMCA or a local Boys and Girls Club?

Is there a rec center she can join as a member so she has a safe place to hang out with other kids during the day? Do you have a town library she could go to?

You'll probably have to find a combination of things - maybe a couple of days a week she goes to a friend's house (you could offer to watch the other child in the evening or weekend so you feel less guilty) and a couple of days you find someone to watch her or find a program for her to attend. Enroll her in summer school. Try to find a CIT program. Whatever you do, it isn't going to be free, so find the best, affordable option you can.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Find a family who needs a mother's helper for BOYS. She's a tomboy, so she'd be perfect for playing with little boys who are all over the place. Maybe she can teach them t-ball, soccer, etc.

It could be a win-win. Approach it with the idea that you don't want her to be by herself, and they could use the help with the kids. You offer to pay them x amount of money, which is less than camp, and they don't have to pay for a mother's helper. They really ARE supervising your child, but she sees herself as having a bit of a job. And yes, you need to tell them that she needs to be able to take breaks from the kids and just stare at the ceiling some...

Try that...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Most of the working parents I know hire college students to watch their young teens during the summer. This mostly involves taking them to and from the pool, sports camps/clinics, classes or on other outings, as most young teens don't really want to be stuck at home all day.
Also many do summer sleep away camps, for at least a few weeks. At age 12/13 or so they start being CITs (counselors in training.) My older two did this until they were 15/16. Some of the local day camps here also have CIT programs as the kids age out of being regular campers.
ETA: do you have any swim/tennis clubs you could join? Many kids spend a good chunk of their summer days hanging out at places like that.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It is not too early to think about next summer. Many summer camps and programs and classes (at least in our area) open registration in January or February and fill up almost immediately! So you're smart to think ahead. Involve her in the planning, though, so she feels interest and ownership and doesn't go grudgingly into whatever activities she has next summer. If she feels that you're looking for a place to park her because you don't want her home alone, she may interpret that as "Mom doesn't trust me to stay alone" -- even though that's not what's going on.

Camps can be low-cost and many do go into the teen years. Not all are "camps" but there are often many summer classes for younger teens. A good source for classes and camps is your local parks and recreation department's listings for this summer to plan ahead for next summer. Be aware of dates when applications open and close for next year.

If she's not in full-day, every-day camps: Try to pair her up with a friend whose folks you know so you can get rides and "coverage" for her.

For instance, if she and a friend both do the three-hour art "camp" for kids 12-14 at the local art center each day for a week, then after camp, the girls both ride with friend's parent or sitter home to friend's house and your daughter stays there for the afternoon, until you pick her up at their house. You help out the other family by doing things like taking both girls to the camp on your way to work at the start of the day, etc. A lot of that kind of thing goes on!

Many school systems actually do have summer programs for older kids and often these are great programs! Our public school system, for example, offers a four-week, all-day arts camp for kids in grades 6-12. What does your daughter do IN school that she would enjoy doing outside school? Look for strings camps if she's in orchestra; band camps if she's in band; drama camps, math camps, writing camps, whatever. Between our school system and the local universities, kids have access to all the above in the teenage years. So check both your school system and any local colleges and universities for summer programs. It can take some time to find but you have from now through the fall into winter to plan for next year.

I found that by 12, my daughter actually craved a lot of activities in the summer more than she wanted to hang out at home, AND most of her friends were in camps, classes and activities and not really available to see casually. She is 13 and is in several short camps this summer (Girl Scout day camp one week, a half-day writing camp this week, just finished a full-day drama camp). She loves being busy and meeting new kids who have the same interests as she does.

If your child is totally not into organized classes or camps (though she wont' know until she tries some, and teen camps often do very cool stuff that younger kid camps don't do)....Then consider whether others in your neighborhood or among her classmates would "go in" with you on having a college student around to supervise them and take them swimming, etc. during the summer. That won't fill every day in every week, and could cost as much as some classes she could be taking, so I'd first see if she was interested in choosing some classes or camps based on her interests for at least some of the summer, then using a college student for other weeks when she's doing things around home.

Full disclosure -- I work from home so I'm around to haul my kid to these activities, but I do have lots of friends who work outside the home full-time and they use a combination of camps at the schools, Girl and Boy Scout camps, church camps or Vacation Bible Schools, and sending the kids to spend a day with various friends to achieve "coverage" over the summers. A LOT of ride-sharing arrangements go on so that kids who need to leave a place before mom or dad gets off work can catch a ride with parents of friends. And some places (school and GS camps) provide transportation.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

To give you an idea, I actually watched 3 kids all summer once I was 12. I would be going into the 6th grade in the fall. I would be turning 13 in the middle of that summer. I prepared lunch for all of us. I had crafts, we went to the pool, the library, played outside and had a rest period each day.

That being said, our daughter volunteered each summer at a local summer camp from her old elementary school, from 5th grade through 12th grade. It lasted 5 weeks at the beginning of the summer.

She was there from 9:-00 am to 3 pm. She was not paid, but did get volunteer hours. She also picked up a lot of babysitting clients this way!

She did take some art classes, of course there are all sorts of summer lessons. Music, art, acting, kids comedy, science for fun, Vacation Bible schools.

My business partners daughter is driving kids around to lessons and helping do some light house work for a woman with 3 children ages 8, 10, and 13. These kids are in all sorts of summer classes and lessons.

There are usually Summer Camp information nights in January, here in Austin. It is held at the city auditorium and all sorts of places are there to talk about what they offer and signing people up. They have a ton of companies that offer all sorts of activities. Maybe your town offers something like this? I just googled your city and the YMCA, Parks and Rec, Boys and Girl Clubs, Library events.. all popped up.

Good time to check them out and see what looks like activities she would enjoy.

Is she going onto middle school, that fall? I know if your child is going to join the band, many times, they have band camp for a few weeks during the summer.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I'd leave her home. Give her some chores to do. Call her at lunch and during your breaks.

Yes, something "might" happen. Something might also not happen. You can't live your life forecasting unlikely what-ifs and expect that you're daughter is going to gain any independence. Have some faith in her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Since a 12 year old is legally old enough to babysit another living being they should be old enough to watch themselves.

I get that you don't trust her alone in this neighborhood and you don't feel she's mature enough to watch herself. But you have a whole year to do home alone training.

You DO NOT start out leaving them home all day! You start out going to the neighbors house and letting them stay at home. You do that every day maybe for a month. Each time can be a little longer. If she can do an hour and do it well it's time to move things up.

You go to Walmart for a couple of things. She stays at home alone. You can let your neighbor know she's home alone so they can watch out for smoke or people doing stuff around your home. If you don't make it home that neighbor can step in and make sure she's watched until you do come home. Car accidents happen, long lines happen, illness happens. Having that backup plan is a good thing.

Then as you help her learn to watch herself you will gain confidence in her abilities. I'd always want to have someone around in the neighborhood that knew she was alone so they could step in if needed. Someone you trust to care for her.

Otherwise you need to pay someone to babysit in your home. Child care facilities don't watch teenagers, that would just be silly. Having someone come to your home to watch her is called a nanny and they can be contract labor. You do NOT have to hold out taxes or pay any benefits to them. They are CONTRACT LABOR. Like hiring a plumber or other service person.

They are responsible for paying their own taxes and you do claim what you pay them for child care. They need to know you'll need their SS# so you can use that on your taxes. They should totally be award of this so they aren't planning on not reporting this income.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My SD stayed in programs til she was 12 and then earned student service hours by volunteering at those programs for a year or two. You might look into a day camp or volunteering. When she was with her mother, though, she was home alone.

I stayed home alone when I was 13. I had chores to do and checked in with my mom during the day.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

My nieces and nephews all stayed at home alone when they were that age. They had memberships to the YMCA, neighbourhood youth drop in programs they could go to, sports camps, swimming lessons, babysitting jobs and friends to hang out with. They were capable of getting themselves to and from all of their activities and they were busy enough to stay out of trouble.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Some camps go to 15 or 16 yrs old.
I don't know if there are any like that in your area.
It's too late to sign up now most likely but maybe an away camp would be a good fit for next summer.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

When I was a lifeguard back in the day, we had a lot of young teens who would come to the rec center where the pool was. They had all kinds of activities and games, a basketball court, and of course, the pool. There were a lot of kids who would come every day, all day. This wasn't in the best part of town, so I assume the parents felt that it would be safer for the kids to hang out at the rec center. I'm sure it was safer (there were never any safety incidents while I worked there, anyway), and it was probably a lot more fun for them to hang out with friends and be active, instead of sitting home in front of the TV. I would just check and see if there are any such teen centers or rec centers near you. Ours was in a city park, run by the city parks and rec department.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Mine stayed home by herself at 13.

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answers from Hartford on

My eldest is 13. She's going to be 14 in September. She's been babysitting her younger sisters for me since she was 12. I felt the same way you did but you know what? I had to learn to let go and to trust her. I had to teach her and give her the tools to know what to do when it came to her younger sisters, who are now 9 and 11. I bought a couple of babysitting books and she went through the Red Cross program through Girl Scouts.

I was really nervous when she started. It gave me diarrhea the first few times, I'm not even joking. We started out with half days from school. Then we moved to the days off they'd have sometimes from school. The first real test was February Winter Break after she turned 12, so only a week.

She did great. She proved herself. She gets extra privileges and I made her the promise that if either sister were sick on a day she was supposed to babysit, I'd stay home from work that day. There's no reason for her to ever have to worry about taking care of a sick sibling. When she calls me, I always answer. She has to answer my calls or texts. We communicate through the day.

She hasn't always been as mature as other girls her age either... this has helped. Showing her that we trust her, showing her that she's expected to be responsible and can handle the responsibility, is very important. Is it easy? Of course not. We have an alarm system that she turns on when I leave in the morning. She gets one of her sisters off the extended school year bus for 5 weeks during the summer. She prepares lunches for them, helps them with activities, encourages them to read. As soon as their dad or I get home, she separates herself from them because she's sick of them but she takes the responsibility seriously when we're not around.

This sort of help she does helps her "pay" for her phone. It helps her earn social privileges. I get her nicer gifts at those special gift times. She earns it.

My point is that sometimes you just have to trust your kids and take a leap.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

You could try paying a neighbor to check in on them every few hours during the day, instead of full-on babysitting.

13 is an age when kids can typically be trusted to baby-sit low-needs kids... So it's really not a stretch to let them be home alone. I can understand uneasiness about the length of time, so would have them checked on periodically.

When I was growing up, my mom would have us stay at home in the morning when my older brother was 13 and the youngest of us was 8. Her husband came home for his lunch break, and would check on us then. After that, we were allowed to visit neighborhood friends' houses, but had to check in with the next-door neighbor every 3 hours to show that we were still alive.

At my dad's house, we were in a remote area with no other houses/kids close enough to play at... So we stayed home on our own, and my dad (who worked too far away to check on us in person) would just call us every few hours to check in.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

What about a CIT program at a camp. Sure, you'd have to pay for it but in a year or two, she'd be a counselor and would get paid!

Do she have any friends that stay with a parent? Can you pay them a small amount to keep her while you work next summer?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Work with another parent so their thirteen year old chills with yours until an adult can be there. Or set it up so she volunteers at a local agency or at her school until you or your spouse can pick her up.

Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Can she be a tag along? Speak with the parents of the classmates, if summer break is 8 weeks, see if you can line up 8 homes where she goes for 1 week each. You will pay for any out of pockets for her, i.e. movie tickets, a lunch at TGIF etc etc, plus $50 a day for their trouble ($250) 8-6pm (that's $5 an hour). Your daughter will have to be absolutely agreeable throughout, the type about which people say, having her was a pleasure, she was no trouble at all.

Summer camp might be cheaper.

F. B.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Enroll her in a day camp as a counselor in training (CIT) - you'll pay a reduced rate and she'll assist the counselors with running the program and will learn some good skills. CITs are usually first in line for actual counselor jobs when they are old enough to apply and get paid.

Or you can try to string together a summer's worth of specialty arts, sports and academic camps geared towards middle school and high school students. Those tend to be pretty expensive but they are popular.

Personally, I have a flexible schedule where I work from home 3 days a week and only go into the office for 2, so I hired a sitter for my younger kids for my office days who could also keep an eye on the older ones and make sure they weren't having friends over, etc.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Maybe hire an older teen 16-18 years old for several hours each day. That way your daughter isn't alone all day. You could ask at your local high school about potential kids who are responsible who may like to earn some money.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

at 13 mine were fine being home alone for a few hours a day, and by that age they mostly preferred not to come to work with me (i homeschooled and worked). if it's 8 hours a day 5 days a week, that IS a lot. and you are wise enough to know your own kid. some aren't ready, true tell.
my solution was a patchwork, and it involved lots and lots of networking. again, since we homeschooled my tribe may be different from others, but i think most parents have a grid of friends and acquaintances who can be marshaled at need.
my teens often had sports camps they attended during the summers, they volunteered at a variety of places (basketball camps for smaller kids, a therapeutic riding school etc) which kept 'em busy, they did some field trips or co-ops with homeschool groups, had study or hangout sessions with individual friends, and stayed home when there was nothing else going on. if staying home sounded like a drag i'd take them to work with me and let them go to a matinee, or take their books and go get ice cream, and keep my workday on the short side.
you've got to be creative, for sure!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

My parents were super paranoid, I wasn't able to do half of what my friends did. But at 13, I was allowed to stay home alone. What does she say? You have to give them some freedom at some point, scary or not. Maybe since her friends have SAH parents, they can periodically check on her. I would think a call every few hours from you and some drop in visits from friends would be enough to keep a good eye on her.

1 mom found this helpful
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