Now that the weather is becoming dryer and warmer we all know that it does us good to be outdoors more. Medical advice is to get out in the sunshine, breathe the fresh air and get the sun on our skin. Aside from that I know I feel better when I’ve had some time outdoors and I’m sure you do too.
But how do you feel about your children being outdoors? And particularly without you?
Do you allow your children to play with their friends, without a supervising adult, outdoors?
“Research has found that children are typically not allowed to play outside on their own until two years older than their parents’ generation were. Whilst their parents were allowed to play outside unsupervised by the age of nine, today’s children are eleven by the time they reach the same milestone.” (I have taken this from your narrative)
Was life safer in the good old days?
I’m 51 and from memory I played in the park, around the corner from my house, from about the age of seven. I have a younger brother so I would imagine he was there too and I was in charge of him. I probably had a watch but of course there were no mobile phones. I was given that responsibility and there were consequences if I messed up.
But my parents’ generation put babies in a carrier on the backseat of a car with no seat belt and left us in prams outside shops.
So was life safer in the 1970s or are we just more aware of the dangers these days?
What’s your experience?
Let me ask you a question. Do you know of, or have experience of, danger from a stranger? I’m certain that some of you do. But many will not. My experience of danger comes mainly from the television and other media. If I spent all my time watching the news and reading the tabloids I would think the world was an extremely dangerous place. But my actual experience tells me it’s not.
If you have had a negative experience that is going to filter your view on how much independence and freedom you allow your children. I recently watched a programme on the horrific murder of James Bulger and his brothers spoke of the restrictions their mum put on them as they were growing up. They understood, as I’m sure we all do.
But if your fear comes from the media just check in with that. I often talk to children about the glasses they put on and how it makes them feel. We visualise putting on pink tinted glasses and how we feel loving and kind and green ones to help us feel calm. What tint do you have on your glasses and is it real? And, more importantly are you sharing those fear tinted glasses with your children?
As adults, the development of our brain , through experience, makes us more aware of everything around us. A simple example is the speed of moving traffic. Young children cannot judge the speed of a moving car. But instead of never going near traffic we teach our children to cross the road safely.
The same is true of playing outdoors unsupervised.
Children learn so much from being independent and having responsibility. They learn to use their judgement, make decisions and assess danger. They form bonds with other children, they push themselves and take risks that they may not do when you’re around.
I see around me children who struggle to make decisions because they are not used to assessing a situation and using their own judgement. Children who play independently are used to creating for themselves and so as adults are more likely to be good problem solvers. They are less likely to be anxious about an outcome because they know from experience that nothing is a failure. If something doesn’t go the way you expected you just refine it. If you’re given responsibility you learn there are consequences.
We hear endless talk these days about resilience and snowflakes. If we allowed our children more independence and mistakes (feedback?) they would know that they can bounce back, even when they’re upset or disappointed, and get on with things.
Take small steps in giving your children independence. It can be very difficult. Eventually your children will need to be independent and they will thank you for teaching them the skills they need.