Thursday, April 21, 2011

When would you let your child go to the park alone? - Venting a Parenting Frustration!

I confronted another parent at the playground today. If you know me at all, you know that I hate conflict. It makes me uncomfortable. I worry about offending people and hurting their feelings. But this was something I just couldn't hold in and had been stewing on for the past few weeks. I just hadn't done anything about it yet. Let me rewind to the last weekend of March. My oldest son (age 6) was invited to a school friend's birthday party. I was happy to send him for the afternoon. I do know the family slightly and have chatted with the mom off an on for the past year or so.
When I picked my son up later that afternoon I was surprised to hear that the kids had spent part of the afternoon at the park, alone. These are 5 and 6 year old kids. I was pretty shocked. And angry. My kids don't go to the park alone. We live in a pretty big city. Their place is less than a block away from a major busy road. I couldn't imagine what she was thinking that this would be okay. Maybe it is okay for her to let her kids go off alone, but that's a pretty big leap to send off kids who aren't hers off alone. Thank God nothing bad happened to the kids, but I can only imagine the fall out if something did.
There's a level of trust in sending your child to visit at a friend's place. You trust that the people will watch out for your child. I didn't think to ask, "Will my son be supervised while he's at this party?" I just couldn't imagine that he wouldn't be.
Today was the first opportunity I had to speak with the mother. I started off by telling her how pleased my son had been to attend her son's birthday party, and then I shared how I felt about the kids being unsupervised. I don't know if she really 'got it', and she didn't offer an apology. I can only hope that the next time she has children in her care that aren't hers, she takes more responsibility with it. I know I won't be allowing my son over there again any time soon.
This begs the question then, when is it okay for kids to be sent off on their own? When are you comfortable with it? In Canada there are no legal guidelines in place (as far as I can find out) but it is suggested that a child of 10 can be left for short periods of time, trusting that they are mature enough and responsible enough to deal with it. In the US, State laws vary, some states offering a suggested age (ranging from 8 to 12) with other having a firm age (in Oregon, it's 10). To see a list click here). The American National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left home alone. So where are you at with all of this? What age do you (or will you) allow your child to be alone in certain situations?


  1. That s a tough one. New York is the same way. I personally do not feel comfortable with kids the ages of 5 and 6 going anywhere by themselves. I only started letting my son walk to his friends houses a few blocks away and going to the playground a little over a year ago. (He was 11). I did however find out that when he went to his friends house that they were allowed to walk to a nearby shopping center (about a mile away) I was angry at first for not knowing. BUt then a friend reminded me tat you have to set ground rules. So we told our son that if he leaves a friends house, or park, or shopping center he must text or call us so we know where he is at all times. Since then we havent had any problems He will be 13 this summer and we now just started letting go to the movies without us (only if its before 7pm) and we also started lettng go hang with his friends at the mall again only before 7pm. He has always been a very responsible, mature and trustworthy kid. My daughter on the other hand is a different story. She is only 9 but gives us a run for our money.

  2. I have only rough ideas about ages at this point. Probably under the age of 8 or 9 I would not allow my son to go somewhere without an adult present. And I wouldn't leave them home alone probably until the age of 13 which is what my parents always set the age at. However I'm not really sure what the world is going to look like in 10 years. At lot can change, and we could be no longer living in a major city. I think though as parents we should respect other parents rules in bringing up their children. If you have a child in your care that you who you know or are not sure if their parents would allow them to go alone even if you let your kids then you should find out. However as a parent you should have be able to talk with your child, and know your child well enough to know if they are able/capable of perhaps being on their own earlier and not just setting an age on it. I also like Jennifer's comment about txt them to let them know where he was. At least that way you have a line of communication going.




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