Sunday, September 2, 2012

Free Range Kids

I have, for many years, been a free range mom. My children are allowed to play on their own, make their own fun, choose how much or little food or TV they have, and so on. While I do keep an eye out for my children, I do not micro-manage their day or lives. I model good decision making and allow them to make their own mistakes when necessary. Yes, my children are free range and I do believe that MOST people are good. However, there are situations where being a free range child is not necessarily safe. As a parent I have to realize that my children's mind swill not be totally formed until their early 20s. This means that my children still need me to watch out for them though I may choose not to interfere unless they are truly in danger.

For example, two of my children have sensory issues. One time my daughter living with sensory issues heard a train at the park and tried to jump from the highest point on the playground equipment. Thankfully I ran and caught her in mid-air. She would have broken an arm or possibly busted her head open very easily from that height because the ledge was taller than me and she tends to get hurt just be walking normally. Thankfully she was not at the playground with just her sister or alone.

My son has food allergies, but he is 27 months. I often have to be sure that his food choices are free of allergens so he does not begin bleeding from his intestine or break out in a rash. One of my daughters gets hives from spiders so she will not ever be too far from a caregiver in case she has a restricted airway and needs medical attention. A friend of mine has a daughter who often walks off with strangers if given the opportunity. There are times we must keep our eyes open while still allowing our children to explore and make their own choices.

Some will say that I am crazy because this is, in their eyes, not truly free range parenting. However, a HUGE part of having children is recognizing what they are capable of and what they are not. Many states also have laws regarding how old your child must be in order to be left unsupervised or in charge of another child. If you ignore the laws you may be putting your child in a situation where he or she will be in a more strict environment than you would like because you may then be "in the system". The key here is to be mindful of your area and what the norms happen to be. perhaps being at the park but not right beside your child is more appropriate than dropping a five year old off and leaving for a run.

I love having free range children. I encourage all parents to try this idea out. Just be aware that there may be age restrictions in your area. Also be aware that sometimes unforseen situations come about and your child may need you to be around the corner or across the park.

You do not have to like my way of free range parenting, nor do you have to do the same. Just keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with keeping an ear or eye out for your children while allowing them to roam as long as the distance they roam from you is developmentally appropriate. As you can see above, my daughters were fine crossing a log they found. However, my son wanted his dad's help. They let us know what they could handle and we were there in case they wanted or needed us.:)

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