I’m being badgered constantly by my 11-year-old at the moment. She wants to go to the high street after school on a Friday with two friends and then walk home afterwards. Her school is right by the high street and home is about a 15-20 minute walk.
Independence versus safety
When Sofia was 10, I let her walk to the local shops alone for the first time. She’d been fighting for this bit of independence for a long time. I finally caved, but only when I was confident that she was mature enough. The shops are a two minute walk away, so I had no qualms about the distance. However, there’s a nasty bend/blind spot en route when crossing the road and that’s what worried me.
We discussed my concerns about this particular section of the road and agreed on a safer and sensibler place to cross.
She’s well-versed on stranger danger so I was confident on that score.
Sofia proved herself to be sensible and thoroughly enjoys that bit of independence. I completely get it.
On the high street and walking home
At the moment a couple of her friends go chaperoned to a coffee shop once a week (mum sits on another table whilst the girls have an after school treat). I’m happy for her to join in with this right now, but it will only appease for so long. The next step – which has been brought up many times by my daughter, is them off on their own on the high street.
Despite trusting Sofia and her friends, I’m concerned they’ll be wandering around aimlessly. Some adults assume kids who are just hanging around are looking for trouble. I don’t want her to be viewed this way. I also think children loitering can attract unwanted attention from other children.
Sofia loves to spend money (though I’m trying to promote saving). I have a feeling trips to the high street are going to result in very regular splurges on hot chocolates and sweet treats as well as more purchases of unnecessary cosmetics!
Right now it’s getting dark early still. I don’t want her first experiences of going further afield and walking home to be in the dark.
- We wait until after the Easter holidays when it’s lighter and hopefully brighter
- She tells me what the plan is (not just hanging around on a bench)
- We set an agreed budget for spends
- We set a time when she has to be back
- She walks the majority of the way back home with her friend that lives nearby
- Cross roads at the safest places en route
Obviously children mature at different rates and there are different factors to consider according to situation. The NSPCC has got a useful guide , which can help you decide whether your child is ready to go it alone: https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/media/1103/out-alone-keeping-child-safe.pdf
I’ll let you know how we get on.
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