I have plenty of conversations with parents about the amount of freedom they give their children. Some refuse to allow their 12 and 13 year olds to travel without them, even just walking to the corner shop, others allow their 7 and 8 year olds do the corner shop trek regularly. I know all children develop at difference rates, but is it also the parents not being able to let go?
The best tell tale sign is seeing a child’s first day of elementary/primary school and observing the ease and horror between the separation between child and parent. Some children will burst into tears, other children just want their parents to go, and sometimes it’s a mutual agreement that both child and parent can be separated, but it’s the parent who bursts into tears outside the classroom. Is this a tale of what will happen in future years to come?
For me, it’s understanding your child and knowing how much they can cope with. My two children are very different with their independence… my oldest is happy to take on new freedom by arranging play dates with his mates without confirming with parents first, or making his way to the local shops to by a slushy drink. Sometimes he drags his little brother along, other times he goes independently. My little one, has speech issues, so it’s always concerning for me that if he does get himself into trouble, and somehow gets lost, he wouldn’t know what to do…. until recently! His older brother forgot to come home with him even though he knew that the younger one had a doctor’s appointment straight after school. So I drove down to the school, found his teacher…she said he left when everyone else did, then saw one of the basketball dads, and he said he’d keep an eye out for me, and somewhere in the middle, my phone rings. It’s my youngest son. He has made his way to a friend’s house, asked to call me, knew exactly what my number was off the top of his head and told me exactly where he was, address and all. He didn’t panic, he didn’t get upset, he used his level head and was happy that he had someone to get him part of the way home and be able to call me. It was such a proud moment knowing that he was able to handle himself. The friend’s father told me that he was brilliant in the way he knew what he had to do. We made it to our doctor’s appointment on time, and then his brother was punished (just a little bit) for forgetting him, and was warned the punishment would be harsher if he forgot him again!
But for me now, I know what I was a little scared about, was really nothing to be scared of at all. And I guess that’s how us parents grow to accept that our children are growing up. But then, our children need to prove to us that they can handle certain situations and be responsible, and the only way they can do that, is if we give them the chance, no matter how much it scares us.
If we can develop our children’s sense of self in the early years, they will not struggle with who they are, what they want in life and their responsibilities in their adult years. We owe it to our children to give them their independence in gradual steps, in steps we can all be proud of.