“The first time my daughter walked home from school alone I hid en route and spied on her,” says Rebecca Gaines a mom from Welland, ON. “She caught me and marched, indignantly ahead of me, upset that I had taken away her independence.”
Allowing your child to take the journey alone from your door to the school’s is never going to be stress free. Preparing both you and your child will make it less of a nightmare for you both, though.
WHEN IS IT TIME TO LET GO?
There is no magic age at which a child is ready to walk alone to and from school. A parent knows their child best and their readiness. Also, the length of the trip to school, and it’s various hazards needs to be taken into account.
ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS TO DETERMINE YOUR CHILD'S READINESS:
Is my child asking to walk alone?
Has my child demonstrated an alertness of his surroundings?
Is my child fairly responsible, or would he be easily distracted?
Did my child show understanding of the safety precautions I’ve taught him?
Before you undo the ‘apron strings’ prepare your child carefully.
Walk the route carefully, pointing out Block Parents signs.
Allow your child to ‘lead’ you so you are confident he knows where he’s going!
Carefully explain how to use walk signals, if they’re on the route and practise crossing many times.
Teach your child to never taunt dogs.
Ensure your child knows rules about strangers (adults do not need help from children).
Impress upon your child that walking requires full attention (no daydreaming and tripping over a curb, please)
Insist that your child walks directly home from school (no stopping to float leaves in puddles or visiting a friend)
Giving your child independence is part of the ‘job’ of parenting, preparing him for the world.
TOOLS FOR THE JOURNEY
Dina Patel, mother of four (16 to seven years) gives her kids walkie talkies with good reach. “That way they can be in touch all the way to and from school. They give me a call when they reach the school yard, and then I can rest,” she says, “until they start the journey home!” PC