As a more ‘experienced’ parent, I get asked this question a lot: ‘When can I let my child walk home by himself?‘
I’ve seen the query put out on Facebook, and so realize that there is no hard and fast answer. I’ve heard varied replies that ranged from a sadly unrealistic ‘NEVER‘ (have you met Bubble Boy?) and ‘Maybe when she’s 15 or 16‘ (Talk about rules that may be difficult to enforce).
Understandably, so many factors come into play when deciding when it’s time to start loosening the reins, and how slack to go. But, no matter how much we parents want to deny it, our little birdies do grow up, and it’s our job to get them ready to fly the nest (aka move out and know how to do laundry.)
So, back to the core question, when is it time to let a budding explorer start to venture out?
Inquire of yourself:
- Is my child ready? (The most important of all. Some kids are more naturally responsible or mature than others. Notice that I didn’t ask if Mama is ready. That is not as important. Because Mama will never be ready.)
- Are they asking for the independence in the first place? (Remember Leo the Late Bloomer?)
- What are their friends doing? (And not in a ‘jump off a bridge kinda way’, but more with regard to social opportunities-key for tweens and teens- such as are they going to the mall yet, hanging out in the park after school, heading off to the movies…)
- How far is the school or friend’s house?
- What is my neighbourhood like? Do I live in the suburbs or city? Are there main streets to cross?
- Will they be walking alone or with a buddy?
- Do they have a cell phone yet?
My sons were ready much earlier for independence than my daughter. Timid, and a bit of a homebody, she was happy to be walked or driven to her friend’s houses and/ or to go out in a group. By the time the was 12, though, I was ready to push her out the door. She needed to understand that she could walk around the block, 20 houses, to her best friend’s house. We’d had all the talks, she had taken the babysitting course, and was already babysitting her brothers. She was a very responsible kid.
She was ready. She just didn’t know it.
The first time she took that walk, she called me from her cell phone twice during her five minute walk, and then again when she arrived. The second time she called me once plus upon arrival, and the third she called me just when she got there. The fourth time, I had to call her. We had lift-off.
My sons, on the other hand, were chomping at the bit. Both of them were out and riding their bikes with friends by the end of 5th Grade. Half the time, I didn’t know where they were. And, it wasn’t the 1970s. I was a Millennial parent and I was used to knowing the location of my minis. At all times. My solution was not to follow them around the block on my scooter. Instead, I got them cell phones, a year earlier than their sister, so that I could locate them.
Supervised independence. They were in heaven.
- I know where you’re going and who you’re with.
- If I call or text you, you answer. No other option.
- You may not cross main streets.
- You must stay with a buddy or the group you left with, unless you’re on the way home.
Enforcing those rules would have been much easier if I’d had the Family by Sygic App.
I had to let my daughter rely on physical check-ins to make her feel secure (this was in the days before texting), and hope that my boys’ tween brains could keep track of my four simple guidelines. This app makes keeping the rules easy.
Since I like to set expectations for my kids and them live up to them, Family by Sygic lets me see what they’re doing without driving them crazy. I can give them a bit of freedom, that supervised independence that they crave, and a whole lot of trust (which I wholeheartedly recommend doing). And then, I can check-in with them easily if I need to, which gives me peace of mind.
(By the way, the worst offender and king of the disappearing act is the 17-year old. I am SO loving tracking him down with Sygic.)
Some of the features that we love, and how we use them:
Check-in: Simply by pressing the icon, my 13-year old son can send me his location. Stopped at a friend’s house? Great. Thanks for letting me know. Hanging at the park? Awesome. Popping into the variety store for a drink? Enjoy! (By the way, Checking-in works two ways, and I also let him know where I am. Monkey see, monkey do, you know.)
Send a Message: I love this one. there are three pre-written messages we can send, including ‘Will be late’, ‘Just arrived’, and ‘What are you doing?” You can also write your own messages too, like ‘Bring me an ice cream on your way’.
Safe/Unsafe Zones: This is one would have really come in handy when my son was younger. By his age, he is allowed to cross main streets, but when he was younger, he wasn’t. I could have set boundaries for his travels, and the app would have let me know if he left them. In addition, if there were a creek or water reservoir, I could have set that as ‘unsafe’. I do have our ravine and forest set as such, since I don’t really want him to go in there alone.
By the way, if you’re wondering how I ‘get’ my kids to allow me to track them using the Family by Sygic app, the answer is, BECAUSE I SAID SO.
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Note: This post is written as part of the Sygic Brand Ambassador Program but all opinions expressed are mine.