Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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How can I keep my daughter healthy at school?

July 25, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I keep my daughter healthy at school? | A parent measures cough syrup for a young child, who lays in bed.

Question: My daughter will be starting preschool in the fall as I go back to work. I’m really worried that she’s going to get sick from all the germs that other kids carry around. How can I keep her healthy?

Answer: You have a right to worry about your daughter getting sick from other kids. Some contagious illnesses and conditions are more common in larger groups than in small groups. But with a few precautionary measures, you can help prevent some of the more serious conditions.

First, make sure you vaccinate your child in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) schedule. Children under six years old are the most vulnerable for potentially life-threatening diseases, but by ensuring your daughter has the recommended vaccines for her age, you can help prevent her from catching those diseases and spreading them to others.

Less serious conditions are more difficult to avoid. For example, lice or the common cold may spread throughout the preschool. For these situations, your best defense is a good offense.

  • Wash your and your daughter’s hands frequently, especially after touching doorknobs or light switches.
  • Teach your child not to put her hands in her mouth, nose, or eyes, especially while at preschool. This practice can prevent common viruses from getting into her body.
  • Give her tissues when she coughs or sneezes to avoid spreading germs.
  • Make sure the preschool has separate bedding for nap times to avoid contracting or spreading lice.
  • If your daughter isn’t feeling well, keep her home from school until she feels better and ask her doctor for advice on proper treatment.

As your daughter grows up and goes to school with more kids, she will be exposed to more germs and viruses. While it’s okay to be concerned, take the above actions to prevent contracting and spreading illnesses. Remember, she is building her immune system, which is important for her overall health.

For more information on preventing illnesses and keeping your child healthy, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.


When can I start leaving my children home alone?

July 11, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

When can I start leaving my children home alone? | An emergency checklist

Question: My kids are six and eight years old. My eight-year-old tells me that her friends can stay home alone but I’m not sure when the right age is to leave my kids without a parent or babysitter. When can I start leaving my children home alone?

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer because there are many factors that come into play when deciding how old a child should be when he or she is left alone. Those factors include:

The Law
Each state has its own legal age at which a child can be left unsupervised by an adult. However, the legal language is sometimes confusing. For example, in Illinois, a minor under the age of 14 “should not be left unsupervised for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.” The law may not define what is “unreasonable,” so it’s difficult to assess the age and/or time period a child can legally be left alone.

Check with your state’s Department of Children and Family Services to see what age they say children can be left alone and honor the law.

Even if your children are at an age in your state when they can be legally left alone, if they are not mature enough to spend time alone, take care of themselves, or react appropriately in dangerous situations, you should not leave them alone.

Think about how your daughter handles responsibility. Does she complete her chores and homework without much prompting from you? Does she listen when you talk to her and follow instructions well? If she does and is at the legal age in your state to be left alone, she might be ready to stay home alone.

As mentioned above, the oldest child (or even a babysitter) needs to be able to react quickly and appropriately if danger arises. The child should know how to use a fire extinguisher, fire escape plans, how to treat minor injuries, how to call 911 in case of a serious emergency, and more.

If you are considering allowing your daughter to stay home alone, practice emergency drills so she is prepared if something happens.

If your daughter will be babysitting her younger sibling, it’s important that she knows how to care for that sibling. Teach her about any allergies or other concerns that might affect the sibling in your absence. And always remind them both not to take a bath without adult supervision, as children can drown in just an inch of water.

These are just some of the factors to consider before letting your child stay home alone. Be sure to look into your state laws and consider your child’s maturity and safety skills before leaving her alone.