“Why can’t I go by myself?”

       Most parents had more freedom as ten- to thirteen-year-olds than they allow their own child. Their parents didn’t have the same worries about crime that contemporary parents do. The media constantly expose families to frightening stories of rape, abuse, kidnapping, and murder. Even schools can be places to fear as more children are found carrying weapons, acting in extremely aggressive ways, or becoming the victims of violence there.

       Parents have mixed feelings about allowing their child independence. They want him to do things on his own, yet they’re afraid for him. Kids feelings are more straightforward. Most don’t share adult concerns; they think their parents are overly protective: “No one’s going to hurt me.” “I can take care of myself.” “Nothing will happen. Why do you treat me like a baby?”

       Since contemporary life has many uncertainties, it makes sense to err on the side of caution. Ten- and eleven-year-olds naturally need to be watched more closely than twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. But all children in this age group are vulnerable and need supervision and restrictions.

       In general, insist that your child be with someone when he’s away from home. Kids are more at risk and likelier to get into trouble when they’re alone: “You can’t go to the park by yourself, but I’ll let you go with Brett.” If you drop him at a movie, make it clear you expect him to stay with his Companions: “If you have to use the bathroom, go together.”

       When he’s with friends, check on him periodically or have him check in by phone or in person. If you allow your twelve-year-old and a friend to separate from you at a shopping center, meet them at regular intervals. And if you let him walk alone to a friend’s house several blocks away, have him call you when he arrives and before he leaves.

       He may be upset with the limits you impose, especially if you don’t allow him to go places because he would be alone or because a location seems unsafe for someone his age. When he asks, “Why can’t I go by myself?” you don’t need to describe your fears. Instead say, “I’m not comfortable letting you go there. It would be fine if you were with someone or if you were older, but not now.”

       He may not like hearing this, but he won’t be surprised. He’s heard enough news and observed you long enough to know your concerns. He sees you lock your house and car doors. He’s heard you and others voice your concerns: “Someone broke into a place near here.” “I’m worried about my daughter’s safety now that she’s going off to college.” “I don’t like parking garages.” “I hate to carry cash around.” The world can be a frightening place. You don’t want to scare or restrict your child unnecessarily, but you do want to supervise him enough—and limit his independence enough – to keep him safe.

Picture Credit : Google