There are many bittersweet moments in parenting. One day you might wish your littles could be more independent and not rely on you for everything. Too soon, they’ll be wanting more and more freedom and need you a little less. That yearning for independence is a good thing though, and it means you’re doing your job in helping them grow.
Though it’s a natural part of your child growing up, loosening the reins is difficult for a parent. You want to protect them at all costs. How do you let them do more things on their own but still keep them safe? Luckily there are several ways you can take your eyes off your kids and be OK with it.
- Utilize Personal Devices
It’s easy to romanticize the ‘good old days’ when you were a kid and rode your bike all over the neighborhood. You might have even had the classic, ‘home when the street lights come on,’ line thrown at you. This old adage is even spilling over into today’s younger generation. Their shows have characters shocked by what parents were allowed to do in the ’80s and ’90s.
While that was a great time for you as a kid, you likely feel differently now as a parent. You want to know where your child is and if they are alright because the world is different. With evolving technology, your kids can still go out and explore with age-appropriate boundaries. Cell phones for older kids have tracking and location sharing apps on them.
You could even get a kids smart watch for your youngsters who aren’t old enough for a cell phone. These watches are neat because they allow for calls and texts, so you can check in when you’d like. Many also have GPS tracking on them as well as a way to set safe zones. You’ll get an alert if they wander farther than you’d like.
- Practice Independence
As children seek more and more independence, practice what that looks like. Maybe you start with leaving them alone inside the house while you mow the yard. That keeps them in a safe environment, and you’re right there. But they aren’t in your direct line of sight. As they prove they’re able to follow house rules even when you’re not home, you can increase the time they have by themselves. It also lets them know if they get too scared alone.
As this trust with each other builds, let them start playing outside by themselves more in your yard. You can peek out every so often. When they want to ride their bike to school, this can be another opportunity to give them some freedom. Practice the route with them several times first. Encourage them to always take the same way. Let them know they need to come straight home. You should also know how long it takes, so you will know when to expect them.
As they continue to age and get more mature, give them new freedoms and rules to go with them. As they continue to build trust and check in with you when asked, let them grow. If they break this trust, reel it in until they have earned it again. This starts with your littles staying near you in a park when they are young. And it continues as your teen gets their first car. Trust is earned through responsible choices, and irresponsibility quickly causes trust to be lost.
- Enact the Buddy System
Enact the buddy system when you can’t be right there or when your kids want more freedom. This needs to be age appropriate of course. Even as adults, traveling in groups is safer. More people means there are more pairs of eyes to watch out for danger. Also, if there’s an emergency, having extra people traveling together means someone can go for help.
In some cases your kids might want to go to the movies with friends or to an amusement park with classmates. You can be near them, but let them go off by themselves and meet you back at a designated spot. The younger they are, the closer you’ll stay to the group. You want to be there if they need you, but you also don’t want to be too close when they’re managing on their own.
As your kids get into upper elementary and middle school, you might turn them loose at a trampoline park. You can sit in a spot with all their things and tell them to stay in pairs with their friends. As they do well with that, let them ride their bike with friends to the park and enjoy other freedoms.
Parenting through new milestones is hard. You’re ready for them to need you less, but as soon as they do, your baby isn’t a baby anymore. Remember the goal is to raise happy, healthy, and independent kids. But it can be scary letting them have more space to roam as they grow.
By utilizing technology you can know where your kids are even if you’re not right there. Allow them to practice independence and gain trust with you. And teach them accountability and the safety of the buddy system. These tools not only keep them safer as kids and give you peace of mind, but they also transfer into adulthood.