Keen for your child to balance safety and freedom after the school bell goes? We have some tips…
Heading to secondary school doesn’t just mean more choices in school, it also often leads to greater independence after school too, with many school kids hanging out together after the school bell goes. Unsure how to handle this? Are you teaching your kid to be independent, or activities to encourage independence? Maybe you’re worried about the risks. Here’s how to offer a good level of freedom, while also staying safe.
At secondary school, a lot of kids make their own way to and from the school gates each day. Some come straight home, but others like to hang out with their friends, at cafes, in shops and in parks as they look for more childhood independence. We’ll take you through the different ways to handle this newfound freedom, and what parents should bear in mind, if they want to balance a sense of security with a growing sense of freedom.
Work out the level of independence that feels right for you
Secondary school kids may think they know best, but most still have a lot to learn, inside and outside the classroom. Some children may feel it’s completely fine to walk home in the dark after school or stay out with friends until 10pm, while parents – who have a better understanding of the risks – may strongly disagree.
Chat to other parents; work out how safe the roads, parks and playgrounds of your neighborhood are; consider whether you see other children their age walking about on their own; think about what you did as a child; and also think about your own child’s street smarts. Also, ask whether you’re being overly cautious. Only you really know what’s right for your family.
Try setting you a walk-to-school crew
Secondary schools are bigger than primary schools, draw pupils from a wider catchment area, and so kids may have to walk a mile or two to reach the school gates. If they’ve friends living along their route to school, why not encourage them to meet up and walk to and from school together? They can set up a group chat on their phones, look out for each other, and enjoy a chat on the way home.
Install a tracking app?
Tracking apps are a great way to keep an eye on your son or daughter, without looking like a complete helicopter parent. Agree on one with your child, and you may feel as if you can give them a little more freedom after school. If your child has a Rooster Card, the spending notifications also let you keep tabs on them (or at least, where they’re spending!).
Consider after-school clubs or youth groups
If completely unsupervised independence isn’t right for your child, think about signing up for an after-school club (most secondary schools offer them) or look into local youth clubs and youth groups. These might offer a good balance between freedom and parental oversight.
Pick out a few approved spots
Most kids will have a cafe or park where they like to go after school for a short while. So, maybe agree on two or three places that you approve of, where they can stop off on their way home, and the places you’d prefer for them to avoid. You could set clear boundaries (some tracking apps let you put in a perimeter limit), and speak to other families. If your child’s friends are on-board, they’re more likely to stick to the plan.
Agree on good curfews
Some nights you’ll want your child home early, perhaps to do homework, or just because they’ll need to be up early the next morning. Chat about good times to return home, and maybe even put a reminder into their phone.
Run through what they’ll need to know in an emergency
Does your child know their home address, including their postcode? Do they know your number, or have they just got it saved in their phone? Do they know who to call if something goes wrong, or someone suspicious starts acting weirdly? It might be worth getting them to learn one phone number, and maybe a postcode, and perhaps also run through the basic personal safety stuff (often covered in primary school) one more time.
How to offer kids space in your house
If you’d prefer to keep your child closeby, or perhaps you’ve not got many local hangout options, offer your child and their friends a space to hang out at home. You could clear out the shed or garage, or free up the living room or home office for them. Or, suggest they tidy their bedroom to make way for friends! They’ll probably appreciate the space, and you may even become known as a cool parent among their friendship group.