larissa and aviva romans

Jon Haidt Inspired Me to Let My Kid Walk Home from School. And Then —

After hearing a talk by Let Grow Co-Founder Jonathan Haidt at the Grace Church School in Manhattan, Larissa Romans did a bit of a dive into childhood independence. As she wrote me later (we’d never met):

During Jonathan’s talk he mentioned Free Range Kids, which I started this weekend. Both Jonathan and you mention The Let Grow Experience and this past afternoon I got the chance to explore it a bit. And here I am.  

As a child, I remember begging to peel oranges with a knife like my older sisters. I wanted to be a big girl. I do not see much of that in my little girl.  

As a toddler, she was more carefree. She climbed on everything. As she grew, I noticed that any time some unfortunate event happened she’d cry and say “If only I hadn’t…” or “I shouldn’t have…” It broke my heart.

Larissa decided it was time to let her 5th grader do something new, on her own — which is what The Let Grow Experience is all about.  Schools can assign it (all our materials are free). Or parents can do it on their own, as Larissa and her daughter Aviva, above, did. Larissa asked Aviva if she’d like to walk the half mile home, unsupervised, with a friend (another fifth grader). Aviva said yes — even though the week before she’d literally asked her mom to buy her “The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook”! Here’s how Aviva’s first Let Grow Experience went — in her own words:

I Walked Home for The First Time!!!

On Thursday, February the 22nd, I walked home from school for the first time with a friend alone. I was nervous, I kept looking over my shoulder thinking someone would come up to us, meanwhile my friend was talking and laughing, he didn’t seem worried at all. Even when we were crossing the street I looked at every car, van, bus, and bike thinking something would happen. 

I think some of that has to do with my grandma watching the news, every time I visited there was a kid getting kidnapped by walking alone, or a shooting, or a boat that sunk. 

None of this happened of course. I didn’t expect it to. I was just looking at all the things that could go wrong and I have to say I came up with a lot.

One Slightly Scary Thing

The only “scary” thing that happened that day was an old man saying, “pew pew pew!” with his hands looking like a gun.  (I concluded that either the old man was drunk, or he was daydreaming he was in a war, maybe he was, who knows.)

In the end we were fine, got to the house, did homework and played a game.

A few days later I did the same thing, same friend, same path the only difference is that I wasn’t as scared, yes, I was looking behind my shoulder time to time but this time I was laughing and talking and had almost the same excitement as my friend had the week before. — Aviva

Psychologists Have a Word for This

Lenore here: “The only difference is that I wasn’t as scared”??!!??? THIS IS WHAT PSYCHOLOGISTS CALL A BREAKTHROUGH.

What conquers hypothetical worries and ruminating? REALITY. That’s why The Let Grow Experience is so transformative: Anxiety — fear of what COULD happen — gets replaced by reality: What actually DOES happen.

Jon Haidt’s new book, The Anxious Generation makes four big recommendations for making kids more resilient and ready for life. Three have to do with phones: Get them out of the schools, keep kids off them till 14, no social media till 16. But the fourth recommendation is to give kids back some independence, free play and responsibility IN THE REAL WORLD.

You and Your Kids Can Do it Today

Doing The Let Grow Experience helps everyone lean into #4. It rewires kids AND their parents! It’s simple. It’s free. It’s here for the taking. Parents! Schools! Counselors! If you would like to replace kids’ anxiety with a sweet, wonderful realization like, “The only difference is that I wasn’t as scared” the solution is simple: ACTION BREAKS THE CYCLE. TAKE IT!!!

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