Friday, January 12, 2007

Schools are closed. Now what?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 million U.S. households (just over 25 percent) have two parents with children under 18. There are also 12 million single-parent households with children under age 18. So if schools close, tens of millions of kids in about 40 million U.S. households will be home -- some supervised, some not.

Such a situation may not be a problem for families with older children, but what about working parents of a 7-year-old? Many parents won't be able to work from home or have enough leave built up to stay home for a few weeks or months. This is especially problematic for single-parent households.

If you're a parent of school-aged children, what should you do to prepare? Here are some helpful tips if your child's school is closed:

* Determine whether or not your children are old enough to stay home by themselves for extended periods.
* Discuss with your employer whether or not you will be able to work from home, or at least be able to take some time off to care for your child in the event of a pandemic.
* If you can't get off work, ask a family member or neighbor if they will be able to watch them. This isn’t ideal, but at least they won't be interacting with dozens of kids.
* Ask the school or parent-teacher group if they have a pandemic flu or emergency closure plan and if classes will be offered on TV, radio or online.
* Stock up on books, games and fun activities that kids and teens can do at home, which will help before they become stir crazy. Or you do.

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