What is the appropriate age for a child to walk to and from school "by themselves"?

Tara - posted on 09/02/2009 ( 18 moms have responded )

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Monday was the first day of Kindergarten for my son... the day that your baby is growing up! I was disgusted to find out that a five yr old little boy was walking to school by himself and thirty minute late might i add. When the little boy got to school the teacher asked where his parents were and he said "my mommy was too sick to get up and she told me to walk myself" I think this is horrifying with the dangerous streets, sex offenders, or just simply getting lost. So I am asking all of you.... what do you feel is the appropriate age for a child to walk to school by themselves?

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LadyRealityCheck - posted on 09/01/2011

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It's nice to see that some moms here have the LUXURY of walking their kids to and from school every day. I suspect that many of you who do this have the LUXURY of working part time or being stay at home moms. How else would you be able to pick up your child?



There are a lot of opinions here expressed by moms who walk their kids to school or bus stop all the way up to 18 years of age. 18! REALLY??!!!

How is that 12-18 year old ever going to develop "street smarts"?



Then you sit on your THRONE criticizing-for the most part- WORKING parents who are letting their 8-17 year old kids walk home from school or from the bus stop? GIMME A BREAK!

We all know that It's easy to complain about hungry peasants while sitting on a thrown with a full belly.



Well here's a little NEWSFLASH for you--

The vast majority of pedophilia or even "kidnappings" happen in this country by people the parents and child know. Usually family members.

The percentage of 'stranger abductions' is so low that your child has a much greater chance of getting into a car accident while you are driving them to school.

Your child has a MUCH HIGHER chance of getting struck by lightning on an outing with you than being kidnapped. Your child has a MUCH HIGHER chance of getting physically and sexually abused by a caregiver or a teacher, and aunt and uncle etc than they do by a complete stranger.

Your child has a MUCH HIGHER chance of getting molested in a public bathroom while you are busy shopping than they do of getting kidnapped.

This fear mongering that parents engage in nowadays is absolutely atrocious.



I know, i was guilty of that once upon a time with my now 18 year old son. Perhaps it was the fact that i grew up in NYC and worked for 911 seeing all sorts of horrible things for 15 years.

Then again--out of all the "abused" children i handled (and there were ALOT) i have never EVER once had a case where the child was abused by a complete 'stranger'.

My partners, some of who had been in that job for 20+ years could count on 3 fingers the amount of "stranger danger" cases they handled. AND this was NYC!

Practically all abuse cases were from perpetrators that other people in the community and the child or family knew. Most abusers were either family members or caregivers.



But i digress--My son grew up never being allowed to go ANYWHERE alone (back then i had the LUXURY of staying home as well).

Do you know what the result of that was?



I have a 18 year old son who is AFRAID of his own shadow and afraid and/or uncomfortable to do anything on his own. He doesn't even like leaving his room.

When i shop with him, he tends to tag along right by me rather than to look at stuff on his own.

Fortunately, he is not doing that as much. Fortunately, he seems to be taking more "chances" being out in the world a bit more often.

FORTUNATELY--if you could call it that--I realized my ERROR in being so overprotective and restrictive about 2 years ago and have been encouraging him to do things on his own or with a friend ever since.

By 17 he was driving to and from school. However, he doesn't like "being out there in the world" as he puts it.



So to all of you who insist on hovering over your teenagers every second of the day i say go ahead keep CONGRATULATING yourselves for being a helicopter parent. I can almost guarantee you wont be doing that much longer. Moreover, to you i extend MY SYMPATHIES for the PHOBIC and SOCIALLY AWKWARD adult you are in the process of creating.



Oh and FYI --A Psychologist friend of mine sees quite a bit of Phobias and SOCIALLY STUNTED young adults in her practice.

MANY had overprotective 'helicopter moms and dads' while they were growing up who OBSESSED about how evil and horrible the world is and seldom allowed their kids to do anything on their own-such as walking home from school.



As for me-- I am not making the same mistake with my now 8 year old who is very independent and does ALOT for himself INCLUDING cooking. Oh the shock!

As of next year he will be walking home from school with his 8 year old friend who lives across the street and is already a walker. Oh the HORROR!



Reality of it is--No matter how hard you try you will NEVER be able to completely protect your child from the world-short of locking them in a Dungeon for the rest of their lives. At which point they would have to be protected from YOU.

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Sylvia - posted on 09/01/2011

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I think we can all tell what answer you're expecting to get :P. "Disgusted" and "horrifying" are not very neutral terms.

There's nothing wrong with a 5-year-old walking to school. Unless you're at least 20 years younger than me (I'm 37), you and your friends probably walked to school when you were 5. It wasn't considered a dangerous thing to do until quite recently; everyone did it, the sidewalks were full of kids every morning and afternoon. Part of the reason some people now consider it so appallingly risky is that ... very few parents now let their kids walk to school. (Other reasons include fear that kid will be hit by car [a study a couple of years ago found that 50% of kids hit by a car on their way to/from school were hit by the parent of another child driving to/from school], fear of random stranger kidnapping [which happens to approx. 115 kids per year in the U.S.], fewer stay-at-home parents who are home when their kids leave and arrive each day, and the 24-hour news cycle, which makes us terrified of extremely rare events by showing them CONSTANTLY.) It's a vicious circle.

My answer would be ... it depends. How far is it from home to school? If it takes more than half an hour, most 5-year-olds are probably too young -- that's a longish walk, and offers more potential to get lost.

Is the route to school reasonably safe -- does it involve crossing busy streets, especially at uncontrolled intersections? are there sidewalks? how heavy is the traffic along the route, and how fast? If it feels objectively dangerous to you when you walk the same route (like, if you are in constant peril of being run down by maniac drivers, or if there are drug dealers on the corners), then it's probably not that safe for your kids either.

Now, how about the 5-year-old? Has s/he had a lot of experience walking around the neighbourhood with parents, friends, etc., or has s/he been driven everywhere all his/her life and now suddenly has to fend for him/herself? Is s/he reasonably responsible and sensible, or a scatterbrained daydreamer? Some kids are ready for things earlier than others. You can't just say, boom! ALL kids under age X are incapable of doing Y, but ALL kids over age X are fine! That's not how life works.

It's possible the mom in this situation was being irresponsible. It's possible she was hungover (or drunk or high), sent the kid off with no idea where he was going, and didn't care whether he got here. But it's equally possible that she really was sick and unable to walk her son to school, but didn't want him to miss his first day. It's possible they'd practised the walk and he did know where to go, just got a little confused because he hadn't expected to be going on his own right away. (After all, he did get to school, right? Just not when he was supposed to.) Maybe he was late not because he got lost but because the mom struggled with whether or not to send him on his own and didn't decide till the last minute.

I don't know whether this mom is a perfectly responsible parent who woke up with stomach flu or a deadbeat druggie or somewhere in between. NEITHER DOES ANYONE ELSE HERE. the very worst thing you can say about her, IMO, is that she made a questionable judgement call, since it appears possible that he got somewhat lost (again, we don't know why he was late). Nothing bad happened to the kid except that he was late for his first day of school.

Amanda - posted on 09/01/2011

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In my area no child under grade 2 can walk by themselves, they need to walk with a parent, or older sibling (grade 8 or higher). My children started walking by themselves in grade 2, now by themselves I mean with all the neighbourhood children.

LeDora - posted on 09/06/2009

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Sometimes its safer for your child to go to school when mom is sick( at least someone can watch and care for them if your too sick to get out of bed). You should at least try to make sure they are walking with all of the other kids going to school or arrange for your child to walk with the neighbor's children. The mom that sent her child to school 30mins. late was probably so sick and disoriented that she didn't know what time it was. I've been that sick before, but I was fortunate enough to have someone that came over and helped me.

Wanda - posted on 09/06/2009

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It of course depends on the distance; but I'm saying 13. Sorry, but I am a worry wart!

And there are alot of "scarey" people out there. Old enough to defend themselves and they should always walk with a pal.

Elise - posted on 09/06/2009

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Easy ladies. The person asked the question and is asking for help not a beat down. I agree, five is too young to be alone and accept the responsibility of getting to school on time. I think the more important issue here is her having no one to help her. Kids going off to school is a very difficult thing and it sounds like she was not able to get past her own stuff to help him. I would say, do whatever it takes to raise your kids being loved and safe. Connect to some safe people that can help you manuever through the tough spots. An please do not let your little one out into the world of child molesters and bullies alone. Nothing you are going through now is as bad as how you will feel years from now if something happens to that little guy.

Debra - posted on 09/06/2009

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Hmm, mom was too doped on Oxy to get out of bed? Unfortunatly I've seen that first hand.



My mother had a FIT when she found out I was skipping the bus in 5th grade and walking to school with my friends. I got in huge trouble. I was allowed to walk to school in 6th grade, but we had moved and lived in a very small town with the school very close by.



I've never had to make that decision since my eldest needed to be driven to school until 6th grade, and now the kids take the bus which stops right at our front door. Even with my middle schooler leaving at 6:30am, I can hear and see the bus pick him up and drop him off.

Julia - posted on 09/05/2009

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wow i cant believe that mom would do that to her kid...i have a little girl thats just 10 months old and the year she goes to kindergarden is the year she turns six but good grief come on a 5 year old walking to school by themselves thats rediculous i wouldnt let my child do that even if its right infront of my house... i say wait til they get to fourth and fith grade..thats when my mom let me and my brother ride bikes to school on our own but we were to ride together "eventhough we were about a block from eachother we stayed in visible sight of eachother in case something happened"...if that mom of that child is reading this i hope her son doesnt get taken from off of the street someday cus of your stupidity....a very good question today tara thanks

NJ - posted on 09/05/2009

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We live in a very small town. We were a distance away from school, so my daughter rode the bus. We walked her to the bus stop until she was in third grade. After that, she walked with friends. We could actually see the bus stop from our front window. By fourth grade, she petitioned to ride her bike home from school. So we would load her bike on the back of the car, drive her to school, and let her ride home. She and her father rode to and from school on their bikes the weekend before she started, to discuss the hazards of crossing the train tracks and a busy road along the way. She had her helmet and instructions to come straight home. She managed beautifully, although the only crossing guard was at a commercial establishment where semi trucks came & went. If we had not lived in such a small town, we might not have allowed her that freedom.

By the time she was in middle school, we allowed her to take the city bus into a neighboring community, as long as she came & went with a friend or two. Our neighbors' children rode the city bus home from school in another community. The bus drivers knew almost all of their regular customers and the children who rode the bus. This required the kids to know the bus schedule and bus stops that they needed. They were all motivated enough to learn what they needed to know or ask the bus driver for assistance. We parents bit our nails until the kids were home from their adventure the first time, but they reported their trip in detail and we were satisfied that they had all used good judgement and knew what they were doing. They got a big boost of confidence from knowing that they could manage on their own.

Kelye - posted on 09/05/2009

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Hi my name is kelye,i have 5 children,my oldest is 20,and youngest is 4, she will be starting kindergarden next yr,i agrree, it is disgusting to hear the young kids,at the age of 5 walking them selves to school,i walked all my kid's to school,i would not them walk by them selves,and i will be doing with my youngest to until the day she finishes high school,and if i was to sick to do it my partner would and if her was'nt around at the time i would keep my child home just so i know they are safe.It's disgusting to see so many kid's walking to school by them selves or catching public transport.

Jennifer - posted on 09/04/2009

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I can't begin to tell you how strongly I feel about kids walking themselves to and from school! I have three girls, ages 5,7 and 9 and I wouldn't think about letting any of them walk to school by themselves for many reasons! I see kids screwing around on their way , there are not crossing guards until you're 1 block from the school and I watch how some of these people drive around here and I don't trust that they are paying close attention to child walking past their driveways or while crossing the street. I would never forgive myself if anything happened because I couldn't take 20 minutes out of my day to walk my children to and from school. We actually have a neighbor who has someone else take her son to school because "She just doesn't get uo that early." I've already seen her son walking home with another 1st grader and I am amazed that they made it home in one piece. I understand if the school is in your backyard, but until they are in middle school, I am more then happy to insure the safe arrival to and from school of my children!!!!

Abbie - posted on 09/03/2009

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That teacher should have called child protection as far as I am concerned, but also even now days I think I don't know 16, Look at Jaycie that was abducted she was 11, its just so damn scary, I guess I'll walk mine to school until he makes MOM stay home!

Valerie - posted on 09/02/2009

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I have a daughter and she is in the 1st grade, I cannot see the bus stop from my house so I walk her to and from the bus stop everyday. I will continue to do this till she gets a cell phone or turns 18 which ever comes last.lol. with all the sex offenders, and all. I mean jacee Lee Dugard was taken from a bus stop IN FRONT of her step-dad. I will not take a chance.But you also don't want to put too much fear in their little heads. ya know. There has to be balance. And for me, I sleep better knowing I walk her everyday.

Tara - posted on 09/02/2009

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We live in a small town as well if I stand at the end of my driveway I can see the kindergarten door... but, I still wouldnt suggest it at age five. I know its hard on you because you are pregnant and have a toddler I have been in your boat,I currently have a 5 yr old a 4 yr old and a 15mth old, but things happen even in small little towns. Now of course your the momma so its your call... but if you make that decision to let him find some other kids you know well, that are older that can do the buddy system.. and watch him the entire time, show him where you want him to walk go over the stranger danger etc. But my personal opinion is throw your hair up in a bun and put the 2 yr old in the stroller and just do it. Plus he will have the memories of his mommy walking him to school everyday =) Did you here about the little 11 yr old girl Jaycee that was kidnapped from her bus stop in view of her house in South Lake Tahoe. The step dad saw the whole thing and tried to chase after them on his bike and his daughter was missing for over 20 yrs... horrible story but my point is "it happens"!

Nikki - posted on 09/02/2009

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My son started KIndergarten today!!! We live in a very SMALL town. I think theres about 16 kids in his class. (they weren't all there today so I couldn't count them all) We live One block from the school. I can see it from my living room window. And they have crossing guards at the corner. I don't know what I should do. I want to let him walk I have a two year old at home and am 35 weeks pregnant. But I just can't I'd worry too much..plus I don't want him to grow up!! LOL My husband and I debate a lot about this. And it seems everyday we change our minds. I want him to be safe. How will I ever know if he's ready??

Tara - posted on 09/02/2009

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My thought was that she was hungover too.. or using, but thats just a presumption :) and I agree with what you did Sharon we need more good citizens to help children instead of just turning there shoulder!

Isobel - posted on 09/02/2009

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Mommy was hung over...

Even though I am a free-range parent and my daughter is going into grade 3 - I am just now starting to think about letting my grade 3 head off on her own...maybe. And I think it's going to be a long thought process involving a long training period.

I live on a dead-end street with hundreds of kids swarming the streets every morning. It's about a 3 block trip with crossing guards at every road.

Sharon - posted on 09/02/2009

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5 is to young to be walking even with a group of kids. I would say 11 yrs MAYBE on a populated street with a group of other children and not lagging half a block behind either, is an appropriate age to walk alone.



When my son started kindergarten, one day I drove him to school and on my way back I saw a little girl - she looked to be about 4 yrs old - standing at the bus stop - alone. We live rurally with 2 pedophiles in the area. I stopped and asked if I could help and ... I really struggled with this, offered her a ride to school. I had a hard time doing that because 1. I hoped she would but I didn't want to be caught with someone elses child in my car. 2. Its a bad sign that a child will get in a strangers car

but 3 I didn't want to leave her there. I didn't have my cell phone with me and I would have to drive home to call for help.



Against my better judgement I drove home. I floored it too. Like 300 yards away, lol. Once I got in the house I could watch her from my kitchen window while I called the school and the police from the house phone and cell phone. Then went down to the stop just in time to see the special van from the school pick her up. I gave the driver the thumbs up and turned around and went home. Turns out her family was new to the area and didn't know the bus schedule - they saw kids there and dropped her off except it was for the highschool kids and they all left.

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