Free range moms, latchkey kids, helicopter parents … it’s hard to know where to strike the balance between freedom, independence and safety sometimes. While the government of BC hasn’t specified any minimum ages where children can be home alone or unsupervised, the Supreme Court ruled that children under 10 should not be left home unsupervised. In a recent case, where children were riding the bus to school without a parent, a letter from a social worker extended that guideline to being unsupervised at home, in the community and on transit as well.
Most of us want our children to become independent, confident adults who can navigate their world safely and competently, but with all this conflicting advice and all these differing philosophies, the question is HOW? Well we have a few ideas.
How to raise independent kids
As a parent, use your best judgement. Every child is different. Studies show that allowing your children to take some risks such as climbing trees, going to a nearby friend’s house, selling lemonade in front of the house, leads to healthier well-adjusted people.
Be neighbourly. Know your neighbours and the shops in your neighbourhood. Show your kids which houses are “safe” so they know where to go in times of need. (my biggest issue is someone getting hurt and they won’t know where to go or what to do. not abduction). Also, by being neighbourly, your friends will know your children and be able to keep a corner eye out on them.
Start with groups. Whether it’s going to the corner store, riding bikes up and down the street, walking to school, playing at the local playground, everything is safer in a group.
Start small. If a friend lives next door or close by, have them go there themselves to ask to play. Head to the park across the street.
Observe and coach. Make sure your child knows the exact way to get to school school, how to cross streets unassisted and how to take the bus. Once you know they have it down pat, start breaking it down – only walk them part way to school (or follow a block behind them).
Encourage young kids with small acts of independence around the home. Start with small, monitored risks around the house. For example: using a small knife to trim the tops of strawberries, scooping out the pumpkins, stirring the spaghetti sauce, using the vacuum or clipping shrubs.