walking to school

There’s a lot in the news lately about “free-range parenting” vs. “helicopter parenting”. What does it mean to you? How do you feel about letting your kids be kids and play outside?

Many parents are afraid to let their children out of their sight. Because of the constant barrage of negative news items from everywhere in the world, parents are afraid of their children being abducted or harmed by strangers. The result is that kids are not playing outside, exploring the world around them, with a chance to become independent and self-sufficient. Teenagers are still being driven to school in their own neighborhoods in some areas. What are the real risks?

Recently published statistics show that the world is much safer for kids today than it was years ago. Fewer kids are being abducted or kidnapped. In fact, the biggest killer of children today is from car accidents. Your child has a bigger chance of dying when you drive him to school than by being abducted when he walks there. Also, home fires, drowning in home pools (even when adults are present), unlocked and loaded guns, poisoning from household products – even severe harm from their own toys – all are the biggest causes of children’s injuries and deaths. Statistics show that parental fear is a myth.

In researching this blog post, I came across study after study talking about the harm that is being done to kids by NOT letting them go out to play. An article in The New York Times discussed how play has all but vanished from childhood. Studies by Savlon, and Play England, showed that in the late 1970s, 90% of children walked to primary school and that now, only 10% do so. Some of the negative results mentioned are:

– reduced ability to focus and concentrate at school
– lack of courage, fear of the outside world and strangers
– depression and anxiety
– stunted emotional and social development ( one study said kids are spending an average of over seven hours per day on computers, tablets, TV, or cell phones etc)
– poor physical fitness and overweight

How can you start to overcome your fears? If you don’t, you’re raising kids who are fearful just like you are.

riding bikes

Here are a few things you can do:

– begin by letting your child play alone in his own yard. Start by playing with him, then, after teaching him to check in with you occasionally, gradually withdraw. Watch from a window once in awhile, or go to the door to tell him how you’re enjoying seeing him have fun. It’s a good idea to notice him when he’s having a good time.

– encourage your child to make friends with kids in the neighborhood and play in an area you specify, where you can see them. Gradually allow more distance, as you begin to trust your child.

– let your kids visit their friends, after talking with friends’ parents to determine the rules and supervision.

– go with your children to parks and playgrounds until you’re satisfied that they know how to get there and to use the equipment safely. Gradually sit farther and farther away, letting them have increased independence, until you trust their judgement and allow them to go on their own, with a friend.

– walk to school or to the local store with your child, teaching the fundamentals of safety in crossing streets, and asking for help from adults such as other parents.

-talk about what to do when meeting people or animals they don’t know. Talk about the difference between people they know and don’t know and how to act with each group.

-make sure your children know how to get in touch with you, knowing the phone number, address etc. They could have a card in their jacket pocket when they’re younger.

Children are very capable, if given the chance. Don’t stunt your kids’ development. Let them be kids and discover their world, make their mistakes, skin their knees and have adventures. They must learn to become independent as they mature, so they can be self-reliant, competent adults.

You can do it!!

kids playing outside

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