Key children: the consequences of loneliness

Dad and mom work hard, they want to give their children the best, but maybe they have forgotten that children need to be with them, that is, time. Are "the kids key", those who have the key to the door hung around their neck because when they leave school there is no one at home. A phenomenon so silent that it has not even been sufficiently accounted for.

The specialists call "kids key" to those little ones who, at the end of school, go to their homes where there is nobody, since their parents work. They open with their own key, the food or snack is prepared, or the lunch box that mom has left prepared is heated; they do their homework alone and organize the rest of their time as they wish, until their parents arrive at eight or nine at night.


Difficulties to reconcile family and work

In some cases they are only children, but not always; therefore, sometimes the older one is also responsible for the younger siblings. It is estimated that there are some 400,000 "key children" in Spain, approximately 11% of the total number of boys and girls in between 5 and 13 years; in the United States the figure reaches six million, according to the organization Children's Defense Found.

This situation worsens among the most disadvantaged families, especially among the immigrant population. By not having enough economic resources to hire private care and not having relatives to take care of the children when the parents work, the dimension of the problem has become even more acute.


The Institute for Minors and the Family has warned on several occasions a large percentage of "children of the key" in Spain, who spend the afternoon alone when they arrive from school because of the problems of reconciling work and family life of their parents. The ANAR Foundation receives more than one million calls of minors who do not have parents next to them to attend them to a problem.

Organize schedules: a challenge for many families

It is true that many families today have real problems of reconciling their professional and personal lives: the entry of women into the formal world of work, the lengthening of working hours, the decrease - due to their high cost - of domestic service, The increase in so-called single-parent households, among other reasons, has caused a profound change in the priorities and ambitions of parents, ultimately affecting their family life.


The schedules of nurseries or schools do not match those of the companies what, in some occasions, it is tried to palliate with endless extracurricular activities - that not all the economies can be allowed - and that give place to the so called "children agenda". The parents have spent the first years of the child "placing it" in the homes of grandparents, or of a brother or neighbor, which makes coexistence tense: in reality the parents tell themselves that they are carrying the which is your responsibility to others; think, also, that grandparents get older or die. This is exacerbated if the number of children is greater. The pain is that you end up seeing your own child as a burden and not as a wonderful gift that brings out the best in ourselves, that teaches us to love.

Childhood loneliness and its consequences in behavior problems

The extent of the problem depends on the age and maturity of the child, but also on how much time is left alone. In this sense, it is not the same half an hour, that three or four; or One day a week - for example, "Wednesdays" -, which daily from Monday to Friday. Also, these children assume responsibilities when they are not yet mature enough for it.

The consequence is that they either have behavior problems responding in bad manners or ignoring adults-parents or teachers-or they lock themselves until someone realizes that they are suffering. They often suffer anxiety and depression disorders. Most of the psychological problems that children have are due to lack of affection. Loneliness can have its consequences: the fact of staying alone at home can be frightening for the child. Parents should limit the time that children are alone at home and prepare them in advance towards what they have to face.

When "the key child" arrives home does not find his parents, but he does to television, videogames and computers; In addition, the fridge is available to them without any order or control. When adolescence is reached, these psychological disorders are manifested in aggressiveness, inability to love or show feelings, alcoholism (some, instead of going home they go with their gangs to drink litronas) and delinquency (petty thefts to satisfy their " growing needs ").Likewise, the lack of control and monitoring in the studies of our children can translate into a failure in school. On the other hand, we must also take into account the possible domestic accidents to which they are exposed and, therefore, the physical risks that derive from these when they are not attended at that time by an adult.

In short, being alone can create situations of anxiety and of depression, feeling of abandonment, of not feeling loved, that incapacitates you to love or show feelings. Affective-emotional instability occurs. Appear rebellious behavior, rebelliousness and indiscipline, or states of isolation, sadness and in many cases produces a strong lack of self-esteem.

That dad or mom is at home makes them feel important

Only the fact of "being", of having renounced other activities for them -for helping them, accompanying them and educating them- conveys the importance that we grant them. The end of childhood, from seven to ten years, it is a stage that is characterized by its balance, it is considered the "golden age" of education. With our presence we help them to set ambitious goals, to strive to achieve them, which requires discipline, perseverance, tenacity, namely to say no; to take responsibility, commit and be faithful to the given word; to be the owner of himself and not get carried away by the "I want".

The human virtues develop day by day, with the sum of small constant acts over time until, as habits, they are part of our being. And there the presence of the father or the mother is always necessary. They feel loved, they know that we seek their good and we fight together to achieve it. It is the best preparation we can give them for a balanced adolescence, to conquer their maturity.

On the other hand, we must bear in mind that it is at the moment of arriving home and having a snack when the children are more inclined to tell everything that has happened to them during the day. And that eagerness to "let go of what they have inside" goes off throughout the afternoon. When the parents arrive around 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening, they are the ones who have to enter the son's room and ask "how's the day" and the son will tell what he wants, according to the desire he has in that moment and what he is doing. Therefore, we can not reduce the problem to the simple fact of leaving them alone, but to the absence of education at crucial moments for the lives of our children.

Maria Lucea
Advice: Miryam Peña. Degree in Pedagogy. Family Counselor

It may interest you:

- What are the rights of work and family reconciliation in Spain

- The behavior of children: problems and disorders that are difficult to manage

- Extracurricular activities

- Educate in the order: the orders

Video: The impact of divorce on children: Tamara D. Afifi at TEDxUCSB


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