We live in a world that is very unpredictable. The freedom that I had as a child from a very early age, really doesn’t exist anymore.
I grew up in the city. Granted it’s not the biggest city in the world, but it has a population of around 300k so it’s a reasonable size. When I was growing up walking to the shop from my home, which I will admit was only about 400 yards away, was something I was doing at around seven or eight years old. There was no issue in doing this because the shopkeeper knew me through the fact that they knew my mum, but also on the walk to the local shop there would be plenty of neighbours that knew me and that in itself made me safe.
If something was to happen then there would have been somebody around to help me and more importantly make sure I got home.
My question is, has this changed so much nowadays that we as parents are actually scared to allow our children that kind of freedom and independence?
The answer in one word is yes!
However, the biggest question is why? What has changed so much in society that has now made it impossible to give our children freedom and independence until they at least reach high school?
By the time I was 10 years old I was going to town on a Saturday morning to meet up with my friends and more often than not catching the bus on my own. Would this happen today? The likelihood is that it would not. Why? Well because as parents we see far too many dangers in today’s world that did not exist in my childhood.
Here are a few reasons that I think have changed people’s attitudes towards allowing their children to even go to the shop on their own until they reach certain age.
1. Roads & Traffic
There was a lot of traffic in my childhood, but nowhere near the scale we see traffic today. The roads today are constantly clogged up with traffic jams and asking children even as young as eight years old to cross the road is in itself a dangerous game, and that’s even after all the talks you have had with your children about road safety. Would you really feel comfortable that they would put into practice all that teaching you have done about road safety at eight years old? I couldn’t. I would struggle when they are 10 years old that they can cross the road safely.
2. Stranger Danger
This has to be the toughest one for me. Mainly because no matter how much you drill it into your children from a young age that they don’t talk to strangers. The very essence of children is their innocence. Sadly with innocence comes trust, and trusting everybody and everything around them. Sadly we live in a world where not everybody has good intentions and compared to my childhood nowadays these sort of evil individuals are more brazen and open about it, and let’s be fair it would only take a second to grab a child and bundle them into a car and they are gone and sadly the worst case scenario usually results.
3. Bullying (Older Children)
The situation is you have allowed your eight to ten year old child go to the shops with a couple of friends, but along the way they come across a group of older children and the older children think they may be having fun with your child and their friends, but what can start out as a bit of fun could quickly escalate into bullying and this could easily traumatise your child forever.
So back to my original question. When is it ok to let your children walk to the shops or to school on their own? For me personally once they are in their last year of junior school it can be introduced, and by this time the chances are they will have a phone so they will be able to ring or text to say they have arrived safely, or if there is any sort of problem they have the security of knowing they can get hold of you at any time. It’s important in my opinion to introduce this freedom and independence when it comes to allowing your children to go somewhere on their own at around 10 years of age. This is because once they go to high school they will either be catching the bus or walking to school on their own or with a group of friends.
Sadly there comes a time when you have to let go a little bit and just stand in the background watching over them from a distance. I’m not going to lie that is a very tough situation as all of sudden you are not right there with them to pick up the pieces.
What age do you think it’s ok for children to walk to school or to the shops on their own? I would love to hear in the comments below.