As parents, it oftentimes seems that there is danger around every corner. Of course, this is a false façade. In fact, our kids are safer today than most of us parents were thirty to forty years ago!
Don’t believe me?
How about some statistics for your pocket?
– The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that “childhood mortality is at its lowest point in decades.”
– Per research from the University of New Hampshire, the “years between 2003 and 2011 saw a significant decline in kids’ exposure to assault, bullying, and sexual victimization.”
– The FBI’s National Crime Information Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported 29,000 cases of missing children in 2019 — 91 percent of which were runaways, one percent of which were lost, injured, or otherwise missing, and less than one percent were actual nonfamily abductions.
Yes, in an ideal world, these statistics wouldn’t even exist.
But we don’t live in an ideal world, therefore, as parents, we have to weigh statistics in a real world setting against the healthy development of our children.
So, in an age where we can track our kids via GPS and where danger is at its lowest, how is it that this fearful contagious anxious parenting has gone viral? What happened to make parents link freedom with danger?
In part, you can thank media scare tactics — in particular, social media, news outlets, and, honestly, the cell phones that are glued to our hands. We see more than ever about everything on a constant basis. In part, you can thank the natural state of parental being. We love unconditionally and we worry unconditionally.
Yet, there is another part to the puzzle. Allowing freedom requires releasing control and some parents are roped into the idea of ownership over their child.
Yes, you made your kid.
No, your kid is not you.
No, you don’t own your kid.
Freedom is an essential part of childhood development, one that is directly linked to raising adults who embrace their individuality and responsibility and are generally more confident, less anxious, and are willing to take healthier risks throughout their lives.
How can a parent release fears, ownership, and allow their kiddo to explore the world on their own?
Know, trust, and teach. Fearful parents oftentimes have a narrow vision of their kid’s capabilities. Yet, most of the time, our kids “employ a healthy, innocent, wide-eyed wonder of the world” that’s also backed with instinct. Largely, this relies heavily the parent! Be realistic with your kids about dangers, teach them how to interact with strangers, and spend time getting to know your kid as an individual. These factors will help build trust between you!
Get to know your neighbors. A truly basic comforting tactic! If you live in a suburban or urban neighborhood invest in relationships with your neighbors. Get a feeling for these people as possible points of contact for your kid.
Create rules, guidelines, and boundaries. Freedom is essential! Of course, freedom can be structured with rules and guidelines tailored for safety. Make sure kids know how long they can be out exploring and where the physical boundaries of exploration end. Set up check in times throughout the day.
Let go of perceived control. Remember that whole ownership complex? It’s all a perception. By letting go of this perceived control, a parent can more fully experience the capabilities of their kid and feel more confident in their ability to handle freedom responsibly.