Are the streets really as dangerous as we think? When we don’t let our kids play without constant supervision are we doing the right thing?
Our next two newsletters are going to talk about the importance of letting our kids go. Helping our children move from constant adult supervision to walking to school, playing with their friends at the park, catching the bus to the Mall and eventually heading off for a job or out-of-town post-secondary education needs to be a process.
One of the hardest jobs of parenting is letting go. But having a plan and making it a process makes it much easier for all of us.
Navigating the Streets
“The world is a scary place.” “We used to be able to let our kids go outside to play, but not any more.”
I often hear these two comments from parents in my audiences.
In fact, the world is not a scary place. Yes, there are people out there who prey on our children. But, there have always been such people. The majority of folks on our streets and in our neighbourhoods would never dream of doing anything to hurt a child.
We need to let our kids go outside to play, go to their friends’ houses, run errands to the local stores and to walk to school. A tough part of child-raising is giving our kids the skills appropriate to their age and then slowly but surely letting go. This has always been the case and has never been easy but today is much more challenging.
The reason is that our attitude towards our communities has changed. Media coverage of any attack on a child anywhere is the world is front-page news, is covered for days and is ultimately frightening for every parent. But we need to be more cautious readers of the news. The immediacy of coverage creates an illusion that every incident took place right next door. But, usually it didn’t. The quoted numbers of missing kids is really frightening but then if you look more carefully, the majority are runaways and the second largest group (much smaller than runaways) is child custody cases. Neither of these facts make the reality of missing children acceptable, but let’s put it all in perspective.
I often wonder what would happen if we put as much energy and caring into the runaways as we do other missing kids. Why are so many children running? What can we do to assist their families so that home is a welcoming and safe place? How do we end the running of our young children and keep them off the streets and in a safe home?
In the past, when kids roamed the streets and parks they went in groups and they were street proofed. No-one called it that. It was simply as kids became more independent their parents taught them to be careful. And today we need to teach kids the exact same thing.
The irony is that when we deliver our children to and from the classroom door, when we only let them go to the park when we can be right there or they are in a program with adult supervision and when they accompany us to the store but we wouldn’t dream of letting them walk the three blocks on their own, we are actually making them more vulnerable.
Kids who’ve never ventured out on their own, who have been taught to be nervous and wary about all adults are missing the opportunity to connect with their communities and the rich resources that abound. The local storeowner, the elderly neighbour, the young couple with the new baby, the recently arrived immigrant family down the street all offer our children the chance to experience a wide and embracing community.
Kids who have not been given the chance to figure out how to get to school on their own, how to decide when to play at the park or to visit with others on their street will be hampered when it comes time for then to head out on their own and get a job or go to university or college.
The real trick is that we all need to open our doors. If all the kids walked to school every day, there would be groups of children of all ages, all looking out for each other. There would not be one lonely isolated child making her way to class. If all the kids headed off to the local park, there would be a collection of kids all engrossed in building a city in the sand box or creating a soccer game on the grass.
We need to let our kids grow and become independent.
Next week we will talk about strangers. How do we protect our children? What do they need to learn?
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
Two of my parenting books started as print versions but the third is only digital. The first two are now also in digital format.
For busy parents, digital is often much more convenient. You can pull out your phone on transit, in a waiting room or while holding a sleeping baby.
When we are raising children we know that we need to give them roots and wings. Then we need to consider their particular and unique temperament.
Who’s in Charge Anyway? talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.
But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.
And Vive la Differénce takes a look at different temperaments of children and what that means for child raising.
All three are readily available on my website. Just go to the website.
In the summer we think about reading great, fat beach books. But spending a little time also reading about parenting is not a bad idea.
How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?
I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.
And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
I look forward to working with you for your professional development, workplace wellness or parenting education event.