what is happening. Social historians take note: People are realizing that they WANT to be able to let their kids play outside, walk to the store, ride their bikes without fear of legal repercussions. And so they are starting to talk about this, in living rooms, on social media, and at city hall. Below is just ONE of about four or five letters I’ve gotten in the past few weeks about a town moving toward going “officially” Free-Range:
Dear Free-Range Kds:
“If you are unfamiliar with the idea of ‘Free-Range Parenting,’ please Google it and check out FreeRangeKids.com
I’ve been thinking and thinking about how we (parents in general) could feel safe and comfortable giving our children the freedom and independence most of us had as children. The freedom to ride their bikes around the neighborhood “until the streetlights come on,” the freedom to walk to the parks, play there and walk home without having to be be watched every moment by a parent, the freedom to walk to a friend’s house or to school, just like most of us did when we were young. Freedoms that provided us with incredibly important learning experiences, and would provide our children with the same.
The more I thought about it the more I realized that people these days have the idea that the world is much less safe than it was when we were kids….but that isn’t true. (Look up the crime stats, especially crimes against kids.)
And I realized that a lot of us grew up in communities where our parents felt like if we got hurt, lost, or were misbehaving, a neighbor would help us and/or get us home.
And I realize that is something a lot of us don’t have these days. We fear that people we don’t know might be dangerous, even though most of us rationally know that the MOST adults would much sooner help our children than harm them, and we don’t make close friends with our neighbors.
Further, if we see a lost/hurt/alone child, or even just a child playing in the park or walking around the neighborhood alone, most of us are more apt to call the police than we are to just approach the child and ask, “Are you okay? Do you know how to get home? Do your parents know where you are? Do you know your Mommy/Daddy’s phone number?” And we assume that if we do approach the child we will be looked at by the child, the child’s parent, or some other passerby as the scary, creepy, stranger that most of us keep warning our children against.
And we are more apt to teach our children “DO NOT EVERY SPEAK TO STRANGERS!” than we are to teach them “MOST adults would rather help you than harm you, and if you need help, you should find an adult. BUT stay away from any adults that make you uncomfortable, ask you to do things you know you should not do, or act in ways you don’t usually see adults acting.”
We teach our children to avoid everyone they don’t already know, instead of teaching them ways to judge people safely, or trusting their “gut instincts” the way we usually trust ours.
I know I’m being long-winded, but I feel passionate about this topic and want to connect with others who agree.
I think we should try to change this mindset. I think we should try to create communities where we feel comfortable letting our children have some freedom and independence to learn and show us how capable and intelligent they are, even without us hovering over them, and to let them have some of the joys we had playing outside with our friends for hours at a time.
I think a couple of the ways we might be able to make that happen is to:1. Get a group of parents together and maybe put together some flyers about how safe the world is now, compared to years ago2. Maybe make a directory of parents/neighbors that agree to be emergency contacts for the neighborhood kids/ other parents? If a kid gets hurt they/their friend can go to or call the closest “emergency parent” to where they are, if a kid doesn’t come home on time, parents can call the people in the directory and see if they have seen the child. Things like that? Just a network of friendly helpful neighbors who will agree to help any kids who are lost/hurt/ need a glass of water, etc. They don’t necessarily have to be parents, possibly a grandparent, or just a friendly neighbor.3. Maybe we can have a representative parent to go to their neighborhood meetings and let people know what we’re doing?
I don’t want this to seem like it has a to be a ton of work, it shouldn’t be, it should just be a way for all of us to feel like our kids can have some freedom, and still be safe and for us to know we have a good network of friendly neighbors.
Is this something anyone else is interested in?”