CHILDREN DEVELOP STREET SMARTS
can't I ride my bike to the playground by myself? asks 9-year-old
the other kids are walking alone to school this year, wails 10-year-old Jennifer.
world changed so much since we were asking our parents the same questions?
It may seem that the level of menace in society has increased, but
what has changed the most is the mind-set of parents and their willingness
to confront the dangers. This new mind-set, as journalist Glenn Collins
describes it, means preparing children for emergency situations, particularly
those involving abuse or abduction. Although parents have traditionally
done this, never has it been more encouraged in schools or sanctioned
want to support our childrenĦs independence but, at the same time,
ensure their safety. We want them to become aware of potential problems
but we don't want to scare them. Here are some ways to help kids become
street smart while keeping those goals in mind.
your own situation. Would you describe your child as being fairly mature and responsible?
Does he notice his surroundings or seem to have his head in the clouds
most of the time? Do you think your immediate neighborhood is a safe
place to walk alone? Are there kids of about the same age around?
Do you know some of your neighbors, storekeepers, or others in your
Create boundaries within which children can move safely on their own.
However, even if it extends only to a 10-block-area, an adult must
still give permission to go. Depending on the destination, a child
should check in upon arrival and come home at the agreed upon time,
unless he or she calls. These are nonnegotiable rules. If they are
broken, tell your child that you are going to take away this privilege
until you feel he or she can earn your trust again.
okay to say no. If, like most parents, you arenĦt comfortable dropping off a
12-year-old at a mall, movie theatre or video arcade, stick to your
guns no matter how much your child fusses. Explain that it isnĦt that
you donĦt trust him but rather that you are concerned about the crowds
and the potential for an unexpected situation arising in any of these
places. An adult should go along even if there are a few kids. If
you sit outside the video arcade, for example, you would be letting
the kids hang out by themselves but still know they were safe.
potentially dangerous situations with your child. Pretend youĦre a stranger
in a car asking for help or a teenager inviting your child to play
a free game at an arcade. Then reverse roles. Play the what if game.
Ask your child how he or she would respond in different situations
such as: "What if you have a problem with your bicycle and someone
you do not know offers to help?
to other parents.
Be aware that you are not in this alone, says educator Sally Tanned.
The same conversations about safety, on the streets and on the
happening in every household where there are preteens. Join or create parent groups
at school or in peopleĦs homes to discuss and compare notes on concerns
such as safety, going to parties, and other social issues.
from Work & Family Life newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)