10 Ways to Lose the Fear & Let Your Kid be a Kid
We hear so many horrible things about the misfortunes that could befall a child. Abduction, violence, molestation, animal attacks, bullies, falling in front of a lawnmower, heart exploding on the soccer field, etc… the list is never-ending. As parents, it is all too easy to internalize these terrible things that could happen and then when your kid asks to go play outside you tackle her and lock her in her room where it’s safe.
Unless you want to turn your child into a totally neurotic mess of an adult, you can’t do that! Sure, you have to talk about safe behavior with any kid but you don’t have to let your paranoia show. I should also say, my eleven year old does not have a cell phone. We refuse, but more on that another day. These tips are all assuming you live in a reasonably safe neighborhood or city. Below are 10 ways to lose the fear and let your kid be a kid.
- Slow the flow of fearful information. Stop watching the news all day, there is no reason to allow yourself to be inundated with the grim and grisly details of every crime ever committed and every tragedy that has happened across the country.
- Be careful what you click on in your social media feed. You know what I’m talking about – the friend who obsessively shares ‘alerts’ on child abductions and violent crimes.
- Get to know your neighbors. I am not asking you to host neighborhood cookouts each weekend [ugh, could you imagine] but at least know them by sight and name. Yes, make the small talk and say ‘Good Morning!’. For those of us that are a little less than social, do it anyway.
- Remember your ultimate goal. You are trying to raise well-adjusted, happy adults that believe in the kindness of others and have faith in humanity. Right? Right.
- Think about your childhood. Personally, I remember roaming around the neighborhood with my friends on weekends, messing around, riding bikes. Around twelve or thirteen, my friends and I would go to one movie while our parents would go to another. When we were a little order, about fourteen or fifteen, we would get dropped off at the mall or roller skating rink. If you’re thinking ‘Do you have any idea what kind of trouble they could get into unsupervised?!’, relax. . . if your kid is basically a good egg and on par with maturity for their age, they will be fine. Besides, you know their friends. While the activities may be a bit different with today’s children, the idea is still basically the same: let your kids learn self-reliance, responsibility and social skills.
- Safety in numbers. Again, always know the neighborhood kids. If your child goes outside to play, it should always be with at least one other kid.
- Be clear on the ground rules and expectations. Make sure she is crystal clear that she is not to enter anyone’s house or car. She is not to misbehave. If someone else is misbehaving, time to come home.
- Check-in hourly. This one is my own personal preference. If my eleven year old goes out to play in the complex or across the street at the park, she must come home every hour to check in. In person, no using someone’s cell to call.
- Read up on the sensationalizing of danger to children. This is the age of the internet – use it! I love Free Range Kids because the owner, Lenore Skenazy, does an awesome job highlighting recent incidents around the country. Like this one, which is exactly what I’m talking about [and crossing my fingers that it doesn’t happen to us]. This article, The Convincing Case for Sending Your Kids Outside to Play Alone is also a fantastic read, especially if Free Range Kids is a bit extreme for you.
- Look up the facts. The US is the safest it has ever been in history. Violent crime is down. Abductions are down. Seriously. Look it up.
Listen, I am not saying that there aren’t horrid things that can happen out there, we just can’t let it hold back our children from developing the problem solving skills they need to turn into healthy, competent adults. Let your kid be a kid!