As a parent, it’s natural to be very overprotective of your children. No matter where they are, who they are with, or what they are doing, their safety is one of your top priorities.
When your children reach a certain age, they start to crave independence. They might ask you if they can play out on the streets with their friends and walk to and from school safely by themselves.
While it’s important that you encourage your children to become independent, you also have to consider their safety. It feels like the number of dangers on the streets is increasing year by year and this can often leave parents feeling very worried and hesitant to let their children go out alone.
If you are a parent with a young child who is currently at school, it’s your decision as to when you let them walk home from school without your supervision. Legally, there is no minimum age that a child must reach before they can walk home from school alone.
This can make it difficult for you to decide when the time is right. Hopefully, the top tips in this article will make your decision a little easier. Here are five tips on how you can best prepare your child to walk home from school all by themselves.
1. Educate Your Child On Road Safety
Teaching your children about the importance of road safety is vital if you’re going to let them walk home from school alone. Road safety encompasses teaching your children how to navigate busy streets and showing them how to cross the roads at the right places.
There are lots of educational resources that you can use to teach your child about road safety. Use online booklets and interactive webpages to keep them interested and engaged.
Walk the route with them and point out road signs, pedestrian crossings, and other important pieces of information that they will need to know.
Most schools now have zebra crossings and lollipop men or women outside the main entrance. Although this will help your child to cross the first road on their journey home, they might need to cross lots more roads before they arrive home.
You must teach your child how to properly cross the road at pedestrian crossings. Teach them to press the button and wait until the green man appears or the lights begin to flash. Don’t forget to educate them to look both ways before stepping onto the road.
Reiterate to your child that they should only ever cross the road at a designated crossing, such as a pelican or zebra crossing. They should never cross in between oncoming cars.
This all applies in school zones too. Even if the speed limit is 10 or 20 mph, it doesn’t mean there aren’t dangers and it doesn’t mean that drivers will abide by the rules of the road.
Part of your child’s road safety education should involve teaching them what the road signs mean so that they feel more confident walking home without supervision.
2. Provide Them with a Basic Phone and a Safety Alarm
Nowadays, the age at which children are getting their own mobile phones is getting lower. It might feel a bit odd giving your child a mobile phone if they are still quite young but you only need to use a basic phone.
Giving your child a basic mobile phone will enable them to call you on their way home and vice versa. You can easily check in with them along their journey to see how they are doing to calm your nerves a little.
Your child might also feel more confident walking alone if they know you are just a quick call away. If they feel scared or in danger, they can give you a ring and tell you where they are.
Before you let your child walk home from school with their new phone, make sure to put the emergency numbers on speed dial. Teach your child how to dial these numbers if they need to get in touch with the police or emergency services.
Alongside their phone, give your child a personal safety alarm to use if they feel threatened. Attach it to their clothing or school bag so they can easily access it when they’re in danger.
Show your child how to properly activate the personal safety alarm with the click of a button. Educate them on which dangers to look out for and when to use their alarm.
3. Stick to a Familiar Route and Practice it with Them
Before you let your child walk all the way home from school on their own, practice the route with them a few times. This will instil confidence in your child and cements the route in their memory.
You might only need to do the route a couple of times before your child feels confident enough to travel alone. But if your child wants you to practice the route with them several times, be patient and wait until they feel ready.
Make sure to walk the same route every time so that your child knows exactly which streets to walk down and where to cross the roads. You don’t want to confuse them with several alternative routes as this might cause them to get lost.
When you’re practicing the route, point out significant landmarks and road signs to help your child remember the way. If they can easily recognise important parts of the route, they will find it easier to get home quickly and safely.
Of course, when you’re choosing which route to practice with your child, avoid any major roadworks, construction sites, or dark alleyways.
4. Provide Them with Bright Clothing
Bright, reflective clothing will help your child to stay visible at all times. Oncoming traffic, cyclists, and other pedestrians will spot them from afar and can keep a good distance away to avoid any accidents.
Purchase a coat that has reflective patches and attach some luminescent strips of material onto their backpack and shoes. Make sure the colors are bright and easy to spot, such as white, yellow, orange, or green.
During winter when the sun is already setting by the time your child finishes school, it can dark very quickly. Reflective clothing will help to protect your child at night or in the early evenings.
As much as it pains any parent to think about, children are a much easier target when they are difficult to spot. Dangerous people can easily abduct your child without others noticing if they are wearing dark clothing.
High-vis reflective strips and bright colours will make your child as visible as possible to keep safe from attackers. If somebody tries to abduct them, passers-by are more likely to notice and can stop the attacker in their tracks.
5. Educate Your Child On Stranger Danger
There are lots of potential dangers on the streets, from cars and motorbikes to adults with the wrong intentions. It’s important to educate your child on stranger danger and teach them how to avoid the dangers of the big wide world.
Your child should stay alert at all times on their way home so that they can easily spot any threats. Even though you will have provided them with a basic mobile phone, they shouldn’t be using it when they are walking home unless they are calling you or the emergency services.
Teach your child to walk on the side of the pavement that is furthest from the road to avoid any incidents with oncoming vehicles and make it very clear that they should not speak to any strangers.
If a stranger does approach them, tell your child to activate their personal safety alarm and seek safety immediately. Safe areas may be a local cafe or grocery store, or even the police department if the station is somewhere near to your home.
Make sure to run through all of the potential scenarios that can occur on your child’s walk home so that they know exactly how to react in every threatening situation.
We understand that, as a parent, it’s scary letting your child walk home from school all by themselves. However, it’s an important part of their development and it teaches them how to be independent.
Safety should always be the number one factor in your mind when your child is doing anything alone. Following all the steps that we’ve mentioned in this article should keep them as safe as possible so that they arrive home safe and sound from school every day.
Properly teaching your child about the dangers of the road and educating them on how to safely navigate the streets will take several weeks. It’s a long process that you must get right! Be patient and take as much time as your child needs to practice the route and build their confidence (and your confidence too)!