On Their Own and OK: Iowa 4-H program teaches children home-alone skills

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AMES, Iowa – Registration is now open for families to sign up for the free On Their Own and OK program offered virtually this fall.
During this time when many parents are working from home or families are isolated at home, they may have more opportunities to help their children build skills. On Their Own and OK is tailored for parents and children in fourth through sixth grade. Registration is online and families have until Oct. 12 to sign up, says Brenda Welch, 4-H program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
The four-week program will begin on Oct. 22, and each week participants will receive directions via email for a hands-on family learning experience using materials typically found at home. They’ll also receive a free parent guide to help support their children staying for short amounts of time on their own.
In addition, families will have opportunities to contact 4-H youth program specialists to share reflections and ask questions. Families participating in the spring program noted that the program reinforced how to act in an emergency, help their children handle boredom without technology, assign age appropriate chores, and plan a family celebration to continue to strengthen family relationships.
One parent said, “This is an awesome workshop! It has given my husband and I great talking points to discuss with our son who is very slowly staying home by himself.”
“These classes build skills in youth, as well as incorporate ways for grownups in the home to support this step toward independence. Youth left home by themselves without self-care skills may find ways to occupy their time that grownups in the home may not like. Some young people may truly be fearful staying home alone without adequate education from parents, teachers and community partners,” Welch said.
U.S. Census data shows that 7 million school-age children across the nation are left home alone during summer months. Fifteen states have laws defining a set age or age range for when a child can be left home alone. Iowa has no set age, Welch added.
To register for this hands-on learning experience to help parents teach their children how to gain confidence in staying home alone, please sign up online at https://form.jotform.com/202684836288064.

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