Appropriate Ages for Children’s Independence Milestones
While volunteering at my kids’ school yesterday, an interesting topic came up. One parent mentioned when his children were permitted to walk home from school alone. Then another mom chimed in with what age they could stay at home alone. The conversation mushroomed and now all I can think about are these milestones to which my kids are inching closer every day.
How old should a child be before gaining this kind of independence and responsibility?
In an effort to find the answers, I’m posing the questions to all of you. I’ve included my own estimates and guesses from conversations in the school yard, but really still need more info. Please scroll down and use the comments box to let me know your take on when you have granted or plan to grant these freedoms to your kids. I promise no spam comes from this blog EVER. I’d love the input!
At What Age Should Children…
1. Be allowed to play in the yard unsupervised?
My oldest wasn’t allowed without me until about age 6, but my other two went out while I was inside at younger ages. I think they were 4 or even 3 for my youngest with her brothers looking out for her.
We carpool with neighbors, so my boys have crossed the street to their house without me since about age 6 or 7.
3. Be allowed to walk home from school alone?
Mine aren’t there yet, but I hear when the oldest is in 4th grade, s/he can walk younger siblings home.
4. Be allowed to walk to the park/playground with friends without parents?
Does this come with walking home from school alone? Fourth grade? Fifth?
5. Be allowed to stay at home alone?
For short trips to the grocery store and around town, we’ve discussed age 10 or 11 as a possibility. Definitely older, like 11 or 12 for longer trips out. (Times have changed since I was a latch-key kid in first grade walking home alone, letting myself in the house, and watching TV until my mom got home!)
I have no idea on this one! Eleven years old? Fifth grade? There are traffic safety rules that go along with this one, too. What do you think?
7. Get a cell phone (for emergencies)?
I think this one may be subjective based on what your kids’ activities are. With more and more sports and activities happening simultaneously at different locations, I’m considering this one much earlier than I ever thought I would. Fifth or sixth grade seems the norm in our town with strict rules and only certain numbers allowed.
8. Be allowed to set their own bedtimes?
During the summer, we do this pretty often just to see when they hit the wall and either put themselves to bed or fall asleep on the couch. But for during the school year, when should this choice be up to them?
9. Be allowed to babysit?
I started babysitting for family friends when I was 10 years old. I know this is young now, considering most kids can’t stay in their own houses alone until age 11 or older. So when is the right babysitting age? 12? 13?
10. Be given a cell phone with texting plan?
I’m stumped here. Texting is a huge new world among teens and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with texting, facebook, instagram, and unlimited internet access. Technology in the hands of adolescents is a scary thing. What age (and accompanying rules) are appropriate here?
11. Have a curfew?
Oy vey, thinking of my kids out at night on their own gives me the cold sweats. Is this one for fifteen and up? Or am I too overprotective? Or too lenient?
12. Get their first job?
Babysitting and paper routes don’t count here. When do they go to work on the books for someone else? They need to learn a good work ethic and how to manage money before they hit the real world, but how young? Does the law still say age fifteen?
13. Be allowed to date?
I hate to say it, but I so want to impose a double standard here. Age 13 for my boys. I think 21 sounds about right for my daughter. When is the right age? Are there different levels here?
14. Be a passenger in a car with a teen driver?
I know most kids hang out with friends their own age, but what about when teens drive younger friends or siblings? How old to be a passenger in these cases? I’d almost trust siblings over younger friends, but I don’t know how much sense that makes.
What other independence milestones are you encountering with your kids? I’d love to hear your experiences and reasons here. I know there are no hard, fast rules that apply to every kid across the board. But some basic guidelines are great as a jumping off point. Let’s start a discussion!!