When it comes to walking to school, it is unsurprising that numerous local mums and dads can’t bear to let their children roam free on the streets to school, for fear of a wide spectrum of threats in the form of cars and speeding bikes as well as molesters and robbers. It is understandable in light of potentially frightening accidents why so many parents quiver at the thought of their child being exposed to such danger.
Are there benefits of walking to school alone?
With so many things to consider before letting your child begin a solo journey to school, many frazzled parents would naturally want to delay the arrival of that fateful day to as late as possible. However, in being overly protective and constantly shielding your child from experiences like this, the advantages of letting your kid travel solo might not be fully reaped.
Besides building confidence and independence in your child when he or she walks to school alone, boons also include a sharper ability to assess risks and deal with them, priming a child to become more street-smart and observant with such exposure.
The secure streets of Singapore should put a parent’s worries to rest as it is relatively safe for a child to walk alone, especially in the day time. Additionally, walking to school instead of being driven there will also give a child the opportunity to be active in the morning fresh air, making for a great start to the school day.
Deciding if your child is ready
A child asking for permission to walk to school alone is the first step to identifying if he or she is ready. Concerned parents who struggle to determine whether their kid is too young to start the lone journey would find these questions helpful before making a decision.
Is your child ready?
- Does your child know that he or she can speak up when they feel uncomfortable (especially with strangers around)?
- Does your child know how and who to approach to ask for help (at home and outside)?
- Does your child know that it is okay to attract attention and fight back when they feel that they are in danger?
- Does your child know how to describe his threats or dangerous situations?
These guiding questions could facilitate the discussion between you and your spouse when you are deciding if your child is ready to walk to school alone. While the recommended age is often between 10 to 12 years, it ultimately depends on the maturity level of the child as well as other factors such as the distance of the journey, traffic conditions and how comfortable you and your kid are with the arrangement.
Preparing your child
Letting your child start his or her first journey to school alone could be a very exciting decision, both for you and the little one. While it signifies your first move in stepping back to allow for junior’s independent learning, it is important that you prepare your child beforehand as well as follow up with the experience.
Before allowing your child to walk to school alone, it is essential to teach him or her basic road courtesy and safety. It might be useful to walk the route to school together if you aren’t already doing so and go through the tips and things that your kid has to look out for enroute. Besides familiarising the child with traffic conditions and rules, such preparation also ensures that your child does not lose their way while walking to school alone.
Ensuring your child’s safety also comprises teaching them how to react when they sense “stranger danger”. Learning to shout and attract attention by yelling warnings such as “Help! This is not my mother!” or others would be useful should a child encounter threatening characters.
Gearing up for a walk to school
Compared to 1971, only 25% of kids in the world walk to school alone now, down from 86% then. In Singapore, where parents are often too afraid that their child might be at risk of dangerous threats in their walks alone, the percentage is probably far lower.
Maybe, therefore, it is time for parents to loosen the reigns slightly and give more leeway for their little ones to explore openly and learn freely. While parents have the best intentions of their child in mind, perhaps kids who discover more by themselves would grow up to become more inquisitive and self-reliant individuals.
Watch the video below on a Canadian school’s project to encourage more students to walk to school: