Think more like the character of Crush in Finding Nemo and less like Marlin, and you’ll be golden.
While it may seem like the world is a more dangerous place than it’s ever been, the truth is it felt like that to parents 50 years ago, too. Yet, because we have access to so much information on a daily basis, we hear about every little horrible thing that happens and think it can happen to us. It’s just not true. In trying to prevent our kids’ injuries, we inadvertantly inhibit their sense of autonomy, confidence and resiliency. This month, on purpose, look for ways to help your kids grow in independence.
Experiment: Let the Kids Lead
Make a plan several times this summer to stretch your kids’ wings outside — and put them in charge. Encourage the kids to pick out a walking stick for a walk or hike together, and encourage them to walk out in front, with you a distance behind. In case you want or need your kids to stop or slow down, implement a “Red Light, Green Light” system which they’ll enjoy. Want them to stop? Shout “Red light!”
Explore: Go Creeking
Encourage your kids to play outside, no matter the weather, and if there’s a nearby creek, even better. There’s nothing like exploring, flipping rocks in search of crawfish and other creatures, stepping over rocks, feeling the coolness of the water. Sit back in a lawn chair and just enjoy how much they enjoy doing this.
Experience: Bike Course
In your driveway, encourage your kids to mark out an obstacle course for bikes and scooters. Ask them to wear helmets, but keep your distance. Don’t hover. Just let them go.
Engage: Independent Thinker
Give your kids the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. Help them to be thoughtful and social and in charge of themselves in any given situation. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything and that you can help them figure things out if they want you to.
• Have your kids lead the way when they play.
• The next time you go shopping, have your kids get something for you from the other side of the store. This is a building block for kids to gain independence • If your kids are 8 or older and reasonably mature, let them walk a few blocks to the park in a group. Try short durations at first. Fifteen minutes will lead to half an hour, then
to an hour.
• If your kids are 8 or older and reasonably mature, let them walk a few blocks to the park in a group. Try short durations at first. Fifteen minutes will lead to half an hour, then
• If you are nervous about leaving your children alone around the neighborhood, have them band up with other local friends.
• As you ease into free parenting, have kids check in periodically by cell phone.
• Teach your kids how to interact with people they meet and when to say “No.”
• Don’t try to “fill in the blank” if you hear kids say, “There is nothing to do outside.” They will find something to do. Just give it time. Boredom is the mother of invention.
• Abandon the organized playdate. Just go outside and play.
Things You Don’t Want KIDS to do … but They Should do
• Stick an arm out of the car window while you drive • Jump off of a cliff • Use a bow and arrow • Roughhouse • Burn something with a magnifying glass • Whittle a stick • Walk or ride a bike to school
• Stand on a roof • Shoot a slingshot • Explore a construction site
• Build a fire • Explore a cave or tunnel