Your family is growing and with each stage comes a set of fresh challenges. From the very first forays into weaning and then walking, to starting a school – a day of nerves for everyone. But as children get older, the challenges get even more complex with greater demands for freedom and greater independence from their parents.
Letting your child have this independence can be tough and it might feel, dangerous but you know you have to let them grow and learn at some point. I’m going through it now with my eldest starting secondary school in September and it’s a whole new load of worries. So I’v been taking a look at how you can loosen the reins while keeping your child safe.
You’ll hear the argument that “everyone else has one” and at some point you’ll decide that the time is right for your child to have a phone. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it but there are ways to protect your child while online, in and out of the house.
Apart from trying to limit screen time in general to aid better sleep and keep behaviour under control, you will also want to make sure that whatever websites they’re accessing are age appropriate.
You can do this by installing smart apps that access your child’s phone from yours and send you notifications when they open a new site. You will then be able to approve or close down the page depending on it’s content. Keeping your child safe on the devices they play on is a matter of getting to know the technology better yourself. Helping your child make smart decisions about the sites they access will go a long way towards their independence and use of technology.
When your child asks to meet their friends in town for the first time without you, your stomach can lurch as you imagine the dangers. However, setting them up for a fun time and exploring their independence in a group situation, can be beneficial to everyone. They will learn that you trust them and where the boundaries lie but you’ll also know they are in the company of others.
Set boundaries within reason. Have them meet you at a set time and place and make sure they send you an update on their movements through their phone. Switch their phone tracker on so you can see where they’re heading and be close by should you need to get to them quickly.
Once you’ve handed over that trust to them and they’ve met your expectations both sides quickly learn that sticking to the rules will eventually lead to greater freedoms.
You don’t become an expert when you have children and there is always the scope to learn something new. Take time to listen to your child, especially when they are keen to try something new that take the both of you out of your comfort zone. Give them the gift of being able to fail now and again and to not feel ashamed when that happens. Teach your child the value of learning through failure and the ability to pick up the pieces and move on.
Have them involved in the day-to-day running of your household, shouldering some of the responsibility such as feeding the dog or taking out the recycling. Allow them to voice their opinions and have those opinions heard and respected. You might even want to have them help you decide on holidays or days out to show them you respect their opinions and choices.
Whether that’s through watching taking them on a new challenge, letting them have more freedom or by encouraging them with verbal praise and recognition of what they have achieved. The more confident your child is, the more they’ll grow to try new things and have the confidence to talk to people from all walks of life.
Instil resilience in them too, to tackle the tough times and know that by sticking with something they will, eventually, see the results they want.
Your child is growing and exploring their world every day. Whether that’s discovering subjects they’re passionate about at school, navigating the choppy waters of friendship or learning new skills in clubs.
While it’s hard to see them gradually needing you less and less, it’s also immeasurably rewarding and something to nurture and to be proud of. Build up confidence and resilience in your child to help them cope and thrive through the ups and downs of life. Then hopefully we can enjoy this next phase of parenting with all its challenges and thrills.
If you’ve got older children I would love to know your tips?