“My son has just started high school. Is he too young to walk to school?”

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My son wants to walk to school but I don’t think he’s ready. He’s 12 and starting high school. The high school is located reasonably close to our home. But to get to it he has to cross a busy road.

And I once busted him running across the road while the little red man was flashing.

Plus, he doesn’t have much experience walking anywhere. It was always easier to drive because of his little brother and sister. Now he feels like he is all grown up, owing to the fact he is a high schooler, and he is craving more freedom and independence.

Maybe I’m just not ready.

Child psychologist Dr. Kelly Bowers from Youthrive Integrated Therapy Services says there’s no particular age at which a child can walk to school, however under 10 and you may come under the scrutiny of law enforcement.

From the age of 10, she says it depends on the child.

The ridiculous things we believed as kids. Article continues…

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“Ask yourself whether you feel confident in your child’s ability to cross roads, be aware of stranger danger, navigate their way to school and to arrive in a timely manner,” said Dr Bowers. “You might also want to consider a few other things when making this decision. Is your neighbourhood a safe area? Are there any major roads that your child needs to cross? Does your child have a buddy to walk with? Does your school have a walk to school policy?”

The answers to those questions are, yes I think the neighbourhood is safe, yes there is a major road my child needs to cross, no my child doesn’t have a buddy to walk with and no his high school doesn’t have a walk to school policy.

What even is that?

Dr. Bowers suggests looking for signs a child isn’t ready to walk to school instead of signs they are ready. “Children who are impulsive, easily distracted, have a lack of regard of what is happening around them, or who have a poor road sense or sense of danger may not yet be up to walking to school on their own.”

She says regardless of what we decide, developing a consistent routine is key.

Start off by walking your kids to school or walking with them, but a few steps behind. Image: iStock

"A consistent routine of being dropped to school each day can foster a sense of safety and security for our children. However, there may come a time when your kids are embarrassed by being seeing with you. Pick up and drop off arrangements are often negotiated within families and depend on the needs of all individuals as when as practical and logistical factors."

That's another thing that's been bugging me. I think my son wanting to walk to school is less about wanting to be independent and more about becoming more independent of me.

Still, it was bound to happen and as sad as it makes me - because he's my first-born child and I can still remember the day I had him - his desire for independence is normal and healthy.

Dr. Bowers says fostering the development of your child's independence is very important. "Unfortunately, we cannot be casting a watchful eye over our children forever."

"At some point, our children are going to need to learn to do some things by themselves. Gradually supporting them towards this in steps and stages is often the best way. It also has benefits of developing your child’s confidence and self-esteem."

All parents need a lesson in stalking. Article continues...

She says walking our kids to school but standing back a few metres is a good way to start but I think most of us will feel like stalkers if we do that, and won't that look suspicious to others? If I saw an adult creeping behind a child who is walking to school I'd call the police.

Or at the very least give them a judgemental look.

Instead I like her suggestion to rehearse a safety plan with my child for times when things don't go to plan, as well as chatting to other parents about how they handle it.

"Talk among other parents and hear how they support their child’s independence. Encourage your child to walk with their peers. Their confidence in being independent of you will develop further with the support of their peers."

 

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