The first time that you drop that little hand and allow your precious offspring to cross the street alone you feel like your heart is going to beat out of your chest, but Junior has to grow up so if you don’t want to be holding the hand of an 18-year old while crossing, there has to come a point you decide he is old enough to let go. But just what is this magical age?
In most situations, there are some factors to consider beyond the child’s age because not all children of the same age are ready to tackle a challenge like crossing the street alone. Every child is a unique human being with different levels of maturity, training, and experience, so each case must be examined individually.
As a parent, you are in the best position to determine the answer to the question of when is a child old enough to cross the street alone. You alone have the knowledge of your child’s maturity and whether he or she is capable of being cautious enough to cross the street safely. Trial runs are a good way to teach and give experience with you as a safety net.
Does your child understand the dangers? You can teach safety without making your child excessively fearful. Set some rules and make sure your child understands the rules and agrees to follow your direction. Spend some time learning the safety rules while out walking with your child.
As the two of you walk discuss safety rules, teach children the proper use of crosswalks if your neighborhood has these, and take time to point out what you observe regarding the cars and people on the street. If you see drivers behaving unsafely, point this out to your child and explain the dangers.
Ask your child to observe the traffic and point out safe and unsafe drivers and situations. Explore crosswalks with your child explaining how to use the crosswalk and other safety measures, such as not being distracted with a cell phone or earplugs while crossing and to be aware that caution is needed even when the walk signal is displayed. Distracted drivers can easily run a red light.
Cutting the Apron Strings
There will come a time, whether we are ready or not, that our children will begin to venture out on their own a little farther each time until they fly away for good. As sad as that might make you feel, you know it’s your job to make them self-reliant and ready to take on the world. The only question is when will that be?
Experts say that the age to start allowing kids out alone is 11; however, as a parent, being allowed to go it alone at 11 has some specific limitations and conditions. In a neighborhood with no through traffic, only neighbors and visitors passing through, and equipped with sidewalks, 11, or even slightly younger, is a fairly safe proposition. However, if we are dealing with busy highways and heavy traffic, I would say 13 might be a better age.
In the end, no matter how much we try and want to protect our children from harm, we know that some day we will have to allow them to strike out on their own, even if it is just across the street.