Thanks for having #AskAlyson as a way for confused parents like me to ask you questions. I always learn so much from your advice. I live too far way to attend your talks or workshops, so thank you for taking the time to consider my question which is this:
I have a 9 year old son who wants to play at the park at the end of our street on his own after school. I am the first to admit that I am that “anxious mother”, and he knows it. This is now a huge fight in our family. What are your thoughts about what age is appropriate for kids to be this distance from home on their own?
Dear Worry Wart,
Thanks for the question and glad my advice is helpful! I would not simply cite an age as there are many developmental milestones a child has to reach before being responsible enough to roam away from home alone and every child is different. Not only is every child different, each jurisdiction has different laws for being home alone or away from home alone that you must be aware of too (whether you agree with them or not).
Other variables to consider are; how safe is the neighborhood you reside in? Are there heavy traffic intersections? Are there other children and adults out and about? Ultimately, you have to take a holistic view of the situation.
Most parents biggest fear is abduction or “stranger danger”. Even though this is a rare event, it is such a horrific event, that every parent fears it most, and also has a responsibility to street proof their child in the event their child is approached.
The biggest concept to get across to your child is that they should not assess whether the person is a safe person or not. Abductors are masterful at trickery, so instead, the proper course of action is to teach your child “POWER RULES” and not to rely on their own judgement but instead to simply apply the rules. Here is my post on the power rules created by my mentor, the late Larry Nisan.
Hopefully you will take the time to assess your park and environment, spend the time to teach your child the skills of independence, have them practice those skills when you can monitor them initially and drill those power rules into them so they are second nature. When that is accomplished – they are good to go! Work on this goal together.