Letting go :: Why I let my kids roam {safely, ok?}

//Letting go :: Why I let my kids roam {safely, ok?}

It’s crazy to think as analog kids, we grew up roaming the neighborhood, discovering fun outside of devices, and living {somewhat} judgment-free for being out playing or unsupervised by an adult. This piece by local writer Casey Kenley in Indianapolis Monthly details the nightmare of allowing her kiddo to walk into downtown Noblesville, only to be met with police resistance – and it’s one we’ve never let go. Is allowing your kid the freedom to enjoy his or her own neighborhood really worthy of being called ‘free range parenting’? Or is it simply childhood? This month, CityMom Morgan looks at the restrictions parents feel on allowing their kids freedom to roam and enjoy. And we’re here for the conversation…

When do you know it’s time – really time – to give your kiddos a little more freedom… a little more room to roam? I suppose if we’re looking through the lens of our own childhoods of the 70s and 80s, the ages we were given a bit more freedom are likely much younger than they are today.

Today, it seems, the answer is ambiguous.  There are even questions of legality that by today’s standards would surely have had all our parents arrested. Utah had to pass a law to basically say hey, it’s ok to let your kids roam {the type of neighborhood wandering many of us grew up doing} without the threat of Child Protective Services taking your children away.

let kids roam - theCityMoms

It’s hard to know. I waffle between knowing that a little bit of {age appropriate} freedom is likely the key to building confidence and resilience in my children and struggling to know just when to bestow this freedom and in what ways to prepare my kiddo for handling the challenges and choices likely to come his way.

The more we structure our children’s lives the less they understand how to regulate and structure themselves.

{And you can read articles upon articles about the overscheduling of our children and the toll it is taking on them.}

I don’t have all the answers. Nor am I qualified to offer any sound, legal advice on what the law says about the appropriate age to ride their bikes in the neighborhood without adult supervision or at what age it’s ok to stay alone at home. I think, though, that we need to really examine the opportunities we do have to give our children the gift of freedom and choice {within reason}, that will allow them to build their confidence, regulate how they spend their time, and teach them how to fail and rise up from failure.

I am writing this piece in part because we are at an age with our oldest that I feel we need to start giving him more of that freedom, and a recent incident reminded me why this is so important. My oldest is terrified of dogs. Paralyzed with fear of them. We have worked through what we can with him, including a few visits to a child psychologist. While we have found some strategies to help him, we know that time and exposure is likely what is going to ultimately help him handle his fear. We only recently allowed him to start riding his bike with a friend around our neighborhood, no direct adult supervision required. During a recent ride, he encountered two barking dogs. They didn’t hurt him or even come at him, but their presence and barking scared him. I wasn’t there with him. I couldn’t shield him from that moment of fear. He was able to withstand that moment with the dogs and then ride home and let his big emotions out once he was home and tell me about this encounter. We talked it through. And we talked about how this is likely something he’ll see again. Allowing him to ride on his own, encounter this big fear on his own, and come out on the other side of this fear on his own is one way we can help him build confidence and resilience, because we cannot be by our kiddo’s side every moment of every day.  This age appropriate wandering is ultimately going to help him figure out how to handle these big things on his own…knowing that mom or dad is just down the street to wipe tears or kiss a skinned knee or embrace him in a comforting hug.

WHILE WE’RE TACKLING TOUGH TOPICS: I knew full-time SAHM life wasn’t for me… or was it?

You know your kiddos better than anyone else. You will, of course, find that with each child the age at which certain freedom is appropriate is different. Only you can really make those calls. But I invite you to think about how you can help your children start to roam little by little, within reason, and see that as a gift you give to them. It can be scary–especially with your first child. Bubble wrap and fenced in yards feel like the safest options some days. But if we aren’t careful, we risk a level of so much alleged safety that our children are in danger–in danger of not knowing how to handle failure; in danger of not knowing how to help themselves; in danger of not knowing how to face their fears without crumbling.

So let them roam {within reason}.

Let them fail.

Let them get bored.

Let them encounter the unknown without having a carefully plotted map of what’s next.

This can be one of the greatest gifts you give to them.


Morgan Studer - theCityMomsABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Morgan Studer is a southern transplant in the Midwest who still considers 70 degrees jacket weather, and is always on the hunt for the best biscuits and gravy. Her day job in the higher education world connects her passions for continuous learning and personal growth with community engagement.

On weekends you’ll find her adventuring with her husband and two children, grabbing ice cream, Geocaching at a local park, or snuggling up with a few good books.

Morgan enjoys a hot cup of coffee, exploring new places on foot, and settling in for a good Netflix binge.


2019-05-14T12:38:33-05:00May 14th, 2019|
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