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My Son Is Starting To Gain Independence, But Is It Happening Too Quickly?

Jan 4, 2022

My son is eight and he's starting to do things more independently.

It starts with little things, like wardrobe independence. Matching striped pajama bottoms with a butter polo top. Choices that once inspired debate, but now just lead to questions like, "Are you wearing clean underwear?" Because someone has to ask.

Then the other day, a mom texted me asking if it would be OK if my son and his friend went to the park solo. 

Solo.

As in alone.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and reluctantly agreed, and then I spent the next half-hour panicking about him being kidnapped till I got the "they're back" text.

I want my son to be independent. I want him to feel confident enough to be alone in situations. But as a parent, I completely understand how it can be hard to loosen the grip on the leash.


Even with all the preparation in the world, some things won't come naturally to every child. And Chantal Saville wants parents to know that's OK.


Is There An Age For That?

When is it OK to let kids go to the park with a friend and no adult? Or when can older kids go to a movie or the mall solo? When can you ask your tween to start babysitting their younger siblings?

According to the organization Child Safe Canada, the answer to these questions varies by province, and age suggestions range from 10 to 12 years old.

There is a suggestion, however, that no child under the age of 10 should be left alone for any period of time.

My son is eight and is really coming into his own right now, so I wanted to see how I could best prepare him for some increasing independence.

Age is Just a Number

Age is certainly a great guiding force, but I think it’s also important to assess a kid’s maturity level, too.

Because there is no one rule that’s going to apply to all children.

Think about their nerves. Are they nervous to be left home alone?

If so, that could cloud their judgment should an emergency arise.

Home Alone

As adults, being home alone can feel like a respite.

But this is a skill like any other, which takes time to hone.

So approach it slowly. When our family is ready, this could mean perhaps leaving my kid at home while I do a quick run to the grocery store.

If this goes well over time, then the duration can get longer.

Baby steps, as they say.

Your family will know their comfort zone, so work within it and build from there.

You Can Train For This

Believe it or not, I’ve learned there is training for kids to be left home alone.

It seems that no longer does a child need to be left behind during Christmas, scored by John Williams, in order to get a crash course in flying solo.

But this also doesn’t mean a child is driven off to some distant rural road, armed with nothing but a compass, water and a handful of cheddar goldfish, tasked with finding their way home.

It’s far less extreme.

St. John’s Ambulance offers in-person classes in some provinces. And there are some other organizations like Child Safe Canada that offer online classes and in-person opportunities.

The goal of these courses is to teach first aid and to foster independence in the wake of sometimes difficult situations.

I think it makes sense for kids who like to learn in a classroom setting.

Car Troubles

Obviously being left alone is not exclusive to the home or the playground.

One controversial question is whether or not a child should be left unattended in a car.

This is a toughie for me.

When I was a kid, I was left in the car all the time while my parents would run into a store. I mean, who wants to lug a kid around?

But I almost never leave my son in the car, unless I can actually see the car from inside where I’m going.

It really comes down to your confidence level in your kid’s ability to take responsibility in the short moment you depart to run whatever errand you’re doing.

If you’re looking for legal guidance, it seems Canada has barely any cut-and-dry laws or rules about leaving a kid alone in a car.

Quebec is the only province that has a specific age limit for leaving children alone in a vehicle and they have to be at least seven years old.

Adventures in Babysitting

And last on my home alone journey was the question of babysitting.

It comes up a lot on the parenting discussion boards and social media groups I belong to.

People want to know: when is a child old enough to babysit other children?

Again, I don’t think there are easy answers here because every child is different, from their age to their maturity level.

But a good step to assure readiness is, I think, training. It doesn’t hurt to do some dry runs. Sure, dry runs will never truly mimic the real thing, but they are a step in the right direction.

The Canadian Red Cross offers a babysitting course that is specifically designed for tweens who are between 11 and 15 years old, while St. John’s Ambulance has a babysitting basics class to take advantage of for anyone 11 years old and above.


There's been a role reversal happening at Janice Quirt's house — the kids are acting like adults and the adults like kids.


Not All Fun and Fashion

Kids want independence. They strive for it. But not all independence is fun. And it requires work. 

So in our house, we are also big fans of chores.

Since our son was three, he’s had his own age-appropriate tasks around the house that have increased with age.

A very big milestone occured this past summer, when my eight year old took over his own laundry.

I showed him how to use the washer and dryer, and now he does all of his own laundry, including folding it and putting it away. As I see it, if there were ever a way to encourage raising a strong, independent kid, it’s by giving them more responsibilities.

Gaining independence is not an age-appropriate milestone — every kid will earn more over time and, in the end, trust is strengthened.

I'm working on my kid's independence in steps, from allowing him to make his own personal decisions at home to letting him stay alone for short increments of time. This works for me. At least this way, a simple solo trip to the park or mall won’t send me into a panic.

I'm sure there will be plenty of other opportunities for that. 

Article Author Jennifer Cox
Jennifer Cox

Read more Jennifer here.

Jennifer Cox is the mama behind Whoa Mama! on Instagram and Facebook, where she shares her craft and DIY projects at home. She is also the mama of an eight-year old. She is a self-proclaimed addict of kids' books, and she admits to spending way too much time after her son goes to bed scouring Pinterest. She's also written for Today's Parent, Parents Canada, Today's Bride, and more.

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