I know that is your little man or your baby girl but they are ready to spread their wings and walk to school…ALONE. Maybe they are not completely alone, perhaps they walk with their siblings or other neighborhood children, but, in no way, do they see themselves as the a kid who needs mommy to see them safely all the way to their school door. So what do you do to prepare for their first step of independence?
First, breathe and collect yourself. All moms understand the anxiety you feel when you have to let go. It is not easy and, as they get older, it will not be the last time you experience it. This is not just an opportunity for them to grow and display courage and independence, but it is an opportunity for you too. Your trust in their choices and abilities has a chance to grow while you find a little more independence to do the tasks needed to pull you closer to your goals.
Second, make a plan. You should take the time and develop a plan with your child on how things should work. They should have clear times when they should be at certain places. Make sure they understand that you should be able to find them at that corner, or at that friend’s house, or at school or home at the time you designate. They must know that anything outside of fulfilling that expectation is unacceptable. In addition to their route and expected time plan, you should also have a known emergency plan. Anything from an unexpected early school closure to construction on their regular route home can force the best laid plans to change. Try to prepare them with a plan for every possible scenario, with appropriate emergency contacts, and don’t be afraid to put it in writing.
Third, practice. Waiting until the week before school begins is too late. Your child(ren) should be able to identify the sights, landmarks, and familiar people of the neighborhood. They should know the street signs and their meanings. They should know the names and faces of the people that belong to that community not just for your assurance of additional eyes looking out for them, but also for their protection from those that may not have their best interest in mind. Practice will be the key to their familiarity. Take walks with them through the neighborhood for seemingly no reason at all. Then, take deliberate walks mimicking their route to and from school. Perhaps the weekend before, give them a chance to go it alone.
With proper planning and practice it is possible for your child to begin successfully walking to school. However, only you can determine if they are emotionally mature to handle the task. Will they follow your instructions? Can they make good decisions quickly or at critical moments? Even more so, only you know if YOU are emotionally capable of handling their growth. Are you the type of mom who will follow them to make sure they are where you expect? Would you send spies to check on them? If your day will be consumed with worry about their ability to walk to school, then just drive them until you are ready. That is your child and no one can tell you when the time is right. Just know, even though we want to keep them five forever, they will grow up. Opportunities like this as a child help build the adult they will become.