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FAMILY FORUM: Is the World Safe to Explore?

On perimeters parents set for their children.

Last week and the topic of child safety as utmost importance to parents.

Our first order of duty as parents is to keep our kids safe. There’s a huge industry that preys on parent’s fear factor and why you need to buy every safety instrument on the market.  

Parents battle the unrealistic tendency to want to throw our kids into a bubble. It’s not a question of will the bubble be popped – it’s a question of when. Like us parents, children will have to go out and brave the world and like us, will come back with their fair share of lumps.

Tonight at , author and columnist, Lenore Skenazy will give a free lecture about the topic in her book and blog “Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self Reliant Kids (Without Going Nuts with Worry)” and brings up a most important topic: namely, are we overprotecting our children?

Granted, having a child can be like prescribing a heart attack a day. Building confidence in your children to trust their own instincts and having faith in your parenting skills to know how to best prepare them takes time, trust and lots of faith and prayer!

In “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), a newly single parent is raising three kids (one teenager, two kids 10 and under). The mom is rarely home. One day, 10-year-old Elliot gets sick, and she leaves him home while going to work. Could you imagine? “See ya sport, tissues are on the table, there’s food in the fridge, feel better, gotta go.”

It seemed back in the day, the parents set some ground rules – be home before dark – and let their kids roam free in the streets.

Skenazy, who has been questioned as “America’s Worst Mother” on major television networks, states on her website (http://freerangekids.wordpress.com), “Free-Rangers believe in helmets, car seats, seat belts — safety! We just do NOT believe that every time school age kids go outside, they need a security detail.”

This rings home, for if I leave my kids outside right on my front lawn for a minute so I can go to the bathroom or grab a drink, I’m riddled with fear, panic and waiting for social services to knock on the door, even if my kids are in ear shot.

As children get older and a bit more aware of the world around them, will parents expand the perimeter and send them off to a neighbor’s house by themselves?

Skenazy further states, “Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage.” Does this statement ruffle your feathers?

Is the world a safe place for our children? What is the appropriate range?

Cynthia Litman April 06, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Cheryl, thanks for sharing this! Everything changes when it's OUR kids. When I was a child I'd kick and scream for more independence and to do things on my own and tell my parents to calm down, I can do this. When you are the one in the driver's seat it's such a different vantage point. The NYC trips are a huge step. I remember going in with my friends as a teenager, it was awesome and scary.
Adina Genn April 06, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Cheryl, I know what you mean. Thankfully Flushing is on the Port line, making it easy for teens to enjoy a great experience. As for going into Manhattan on their own, well, there are always cabs until they know their way around.
Cynthia Litman April 06, 2011 at 06:27 PM
On Lenore's website she calls out "Helicopter Parents - who believe their child is so vulnerable — to injury, to teasing, to disease and disappointment — that they have to sort of hover (like a helicopter) over the child, ready to swoop in if anything remotely “bad” happens."
Alexandra Zendrian April 06, 2011 at 06:31 PM
I agree with Cynthia that it is different when it's your kids that you're talking about. So how do you best draw the line between being overprotective and being just a sensible parent?
Cheryl Podolsky April 06, 2011 at 06:52 PM
I guess you have to assess each child on an individual basis, depending on their level of maturity and responsibility, and then have the guts to let them out there, perhaps in stages. It's nervewracking, though! Along with fear for safety, I also worry about the ability to handle money and to not run out of it prematurely. I might be in the minority here (it certainly seems that way from what my kids tell me about their friends and friends' parents), but I don't give my kids a whole lot of money. They get allowance and are supposed to manage that money, whether it means spending it all in one trip on Main Street on a Friday afternoon, or saving it to be able to go somewhere with their friends -- like the mall, or beyond (such as Flushing or the city). Perhaps my expectations about how far that little money will go is unrealistic, but I want them to learn responsibility on any number of levels. I worry about how they will fare in the world beyond Port Washington. But I guess that starts with letting them explore beyond its boundaries without us, with whatever reservations we may have.

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