By Sarah Vander Schaaff

This summer, we’re going to focus on some specific questions parents might have about development and, well, life. Sometimes we’ll turn to some experts for advice, and sometimes we’ll turn to you—experts in your own right.

We start with a question on many of our minds as the schedule of the school year gives way to free time:

When do you let your child walk to a friend’s house alone?

This is a variation on the “when do you let your child walk to school alone,” a question answered extremely well by Gavin de Becker, an expert on the predication and management of violence and author of Protecting the Gift.

Mr. de Becker has a “Test of Twelve” criteria that he thinks should be mastered before letting a child walk alone.

And on his website, de Becker reminds parents, “A child doesn’t magically at some predetermined age become confident, assertive, capable, and powerful. Ideally, this development is a gradual process of ever-greater challenges during which a child gains experience and autonomy.”

I asked a member of the Mindprint team, Clinical Psychologist Wendy Matthews, about how a parent approaches the topic of letting a child walk alone for the first time. She mentioned some practical considerations such as evaluating the neighborhood, the distance to the house, whether a parent is awaiting the child’s arrival and maturity of the child.

Finally, I asked her about what a parent risks by holding on too tightly.

Dr. Matthews said, “The risks are that the parent, in an effort to be protective transmits their own anxiety and fearfulness onto the child, that they inadvertently show lack of respect for the child’s growing need for separation/independence, or that the child might feel inferior when trying anything too different, too new, too adventuresome.”

You can find Gavin de Becker’s Test of Twelve by clicking here.

Have you had a recent experience with this topic? We’d love to hear from you.

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