Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The risks of independent children

When I was little, I walked everywhere: To school, to my best friend's house, to the park across the street and to the park a few blocks away. Sometimes my brother was with me; sometimes he wasn't. As I got older, I walked more places: To the store to get milk, to the theater to volunteer as an usher and sometimes I just walked for exercise.

Was my Mom worried about me? (Probably.) But, she let me walk anyway. And I learned how to navigate my small world and get myself where I needed to go.

So, I was naturally concerned after reading this article about parents who are being questioned by Child Protective Services for letting their children walk to a park that was a mile away. Most states have laws preventing minors under certain ages from being left home alone, but few laws cover behavior outside of the home. Are children safe navigating familiar areas like parks without parental supervision? 

Think of your own children: I am sure we can agree that your child's sense of personal responsibility is different from his or her classmates. Yes, laws matter and the neighborhood you live in also play a significant role, but the question remains:

Do you let your children walk places on their own? Why or why not? Share with me in the comments.


  1. While my daughter is only 2, that story really bothered me as well. I fully intend on letting her walk places and gain some independence when she gets a bit bigger. The children in the story were 6 and 10. Would I let a 6 year old walk a mile without me? Probably not, but with an older sibling? Of course! I remember walking to the school to play on the playground a few blocks away, to a malt-shop at the corner, and to gas stations around that age...without cell phones! My parents knew where I was going and I had a set time to be back.I knew better than to stray from the plan, because my mom had explained the reasons why and I knew she would worry. It scares me to think that more and more laws are being put in place that can limit a parent's choice in how to raise their children. It also worries me that fostering independence is starting to become less and less acceptable. If we don't let our children take small, measured risks as they grow up, they will be much less likely to take important risks as adults.

    1. Hi, Brandyn. I agree - it's a hard internal struggle. I want my child to be independent, but safe, too. It's time for parents to let some of their fear go and let our children feel some responsibility.