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Seaofclouds's avatar

How would you prepare your 8-year-old for walking to school alone?

Asked by Seaofclouds (23046points) August 27th, 2010

My son is 8-years-old and in the third grade. He is a walker this year, for the first time ever. He’s been in school for 2 weeks now and each day I walk with him to and from school. We have been discussing the basic safety things (like looking both ways before crossing the street, not getting in a car with anyone else,going straight to school and coming straight home), but I’m worried I may miss something important. So, I’m hoping all of my fellow jellies can tell me anything else I should talk to him about walking to and from school before he starts doing it without me.

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26 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Do you have to let him walk alone? When my daughter was that age I walked her to school as often as possible because it was a great time to bond and talk with no distractions. I loved that special time and learned a lot that I wouldn’t have otherwise. (I guess this doesn’t technically answer your question, just thought a different perspective might be OK.)

muppetish's avatar

Not talking to strangers was covered I assume? Always, always to use crosswalks (I see way too many kids jaywalking busy streets.) Take his time – even if he worries that he might be late. Always make sure the drivers see him before stepping into the street. Carry a mini-emergency kit (neosporin, bandages, a cleansing sachet.) Will he be walking home too? Have you talked about what he should do if the weather changes in the middle of the day?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@JilltheTooth I don’t have to let him walk alone at this point. We walk with a group of other people right now (some other kids and some of their parents), but the kids have started trying to separate from the parents quite a bit and my son has mentioned walking alone. A few of his friends walk alone. Since he mentioned it, I want to be prepared for it.

@muppetish Yes, no talking to strangers has been covered many, many times. There are two streets he has to cross, one has a crossing guard and the other doesn’t. He would be walking to and from eventually. I hadn’t thought about talking about the weather though, thanks! The mini-emergency kit is a great idea too. Thanks!!

muppetish's avatar

Good to hear there is a crossing guard – my primary school didn’t have one even though the streets were so busy. It sounds like you’re on top of things! :)

Frenchfry's avatar

Can he ride his bike? He will get there faster and usually schools have a bike holder. You can give him a bike lock. I would get him one of those prepaid phones. I am a bit protective of my little one though. Just in case of emergency. One with GPS. With those tracking finders on it.

Seek's avatar

I was a walker, too, for a long time!

I think one of the best things you could encourage is to see if your kid can walk with some of the other walkers, at least until he gets to his own street. If that’s not possible, no big deal. I think you’ve got pretty much everything covered.

I might mention little things, like walking on the curb (very dangerous, but that balancing game is so tempting!) and jaywalking, like @muppetish mentioned.

rebbel's avatar

If you covered all things you already did yourself and the things other Jellies contributed, you might also think of the possibility of let him walk in a company of one or more class-/school mates.
Tow (or more) know (remember their parents warnings) more then one and i believe that a group is also less vulnerable to ‘scary’ men.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Frenchfry He’s been riding his scooter the past few days. The phone with a tracker is a pretty good idea, but I don’t really want him to have a phone yet. Thanks!

@Seek_Kolinahr I didn’t even think about the walking on the curb, thank you. I was never a walker so this is all new to me and I’m trying not to be too over protective.

@rebbel Good point about the group being less vulnerable. Right now the group that walks has about 7 kids in it. They tend to stick together when they are walking, but they do group off a little (mostly the boys in one group and the girls in another). There are 3–4 parents that have been walking with them so far and we tend to stay behind them to give them some space. I’m pretty sure the kids would still stick together if the parents weren’t around, but I’ll tell him to stick with a buddy each day. Thank you!

Ltryptophan's avatar

Drive the route once with them the day before kinda quickly. The morning of, draw them a very rough map. Then send ‘em off without saying much about it. Quickly change into black with a ski mask and jump out on them like a block away. That should do it…

No, but when I was little I walked a mile to school at the same age. By myself. I used to like it a lot. There were scary types out sometimes, but I wasn’t very worried about it.

Squirrels used to drop chewed pine cones on me intentionally and I would curse them! One guy had a caged raccoon in his backyard that would pace back and forth.

It was quite interesting… When we left that neighborhood I cried for weeks. It was a different time, and people still played outside and there were no video games to take away from us being kids.

I wouldn’t send my kid out to walk to school anymore. Just a different day. Sadly.

liminal's avatar

Have him do a practice walk on a Saturday or Sunday where you are waiting at the school for him. You could also have him walk you back while you are blind-folded and wearing headphones. Our 10 year olds are getting ready to use public transportation alone (a very short distance) and it is one of the things they need to do in order to be ‘certified’ as ‘solo travelers’. I am even making them a Solo Traveler certificate :)

Additionally, we have set-up a code word with our children. Regardless of who the person is (even if it is grandma) they don’t go anywhere with anyone unless they know the code word.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I wouldn’t. I’m really sorry but I would do anything possible so that he doesn’t walk alone. I wouldn’t care if he wanted to or demanded it. I just wouldn’t. not trying to sound like a butt here

BarnacleBill's avatar

I would not let an 8 year old walk alone to school until he’s 10 years old. Are there neighbor kids that he can walk with in a group?

I had two incidents that really upset me. The first was, there was a 3rd grader that would get dropped off in the morning at the school bus stop in front of my house. The dad would drop him off at 8:00 am, head to work, and the bus would come at 8:15. One morning I was home working, and at about 9:00 I could hear crying outside. The temperature had dropped to 15 degrees and the bus never came. The kid had no gloves or a hat. I went out to him, and he came into my house, then got in my car and let me drive him to school. A second incident happened where a young girl a few months later kept walking around the block. I finally went out, and she said that a man kept wanted to show her a picture of a kitten, and she was afraid, but when she tried to go home there was no one at the door, and the man followed her. Again, the child was willing to come into my house, and get in my car with me.

While I realize you may think the bus story has no relevance, it does in the sense that children that age are not prepared to deal with the unexpected. He may be fine walking if nothing goes wrong, but if something does go wrong, he does not have the experience at that age to cope with it.

There’s nothing wrong with walking to a from school at that age with other children, but he shouldn’t be walking alone.

zophu's avatar

Have him lead the way a few times. I like @liminal‘s method with the blindfold and headphones.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Ltryptophan Thanks for sharing. I tell my son to watch out for the squirrels. ^_^ Why wouldn’t you let your kids walk to school?

@liminal I love the solo traveler certificate idea! I have thought about setting up a code word, but haven’t really picked one yet. I’ll definitely do that too. Thanks!

@trailsillustrated Is there any specific reason why you wouldn’t let them walk? I appreciate the advice, even if it isn’t what I was thinking about. Sometimes we need to hear that we shouldn’t do things. Thanks.

@BarnacleBill He would end up walking with some of the other kids. He wouldn’t really be alone, but even with other kids, he is the one responsible for his actions, so he needs to be prepared for it as if he was alone (just in case anything ever happens). I appreciate you sharing your experience with me. My son does know what to do in a lot of situations. We have a MP that lives 3 doors down from us and he knows that he can go to him anytime he needs to. I’ve met the MP before and he’s done a lot with my son in regards to how to handle different situations (like someone trying to get him or his friends when they are outside playing and what to do if someone is hit by a car or hurt in any other way). Thanks for sharing your perspective.

@zophu Thanks! I really like the blindfold and headphones idea too. I think I have a good idea for an adventure this weekend.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Depending on the neighborhood it might not be safe for an adult to walk any distance alone. That should be considered.

Is your kid scrawny (like most 8’s)? Is your kid savvy? At wal-mart does your kid cling to you like a dryer sheet, or kinda venture out close by?

When I was 8 I was tough as nails, so mom let me go on my own.

I think there are a lot of variables here.

In a group I think it is no biggie if everyone knows everyone.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Ltryptophan We live in a good neighborhood on a military post. My son is tall and skinny, but he is tough. He loves doing his own thing and having his independence. He’ll go outside and play at the playground (right behind our house) all day, only coming in to get a drink and some food when he wants them. He knows all of the kids he walks with and two of them are even in his class. Oh, and there is a MP that lives right on the corner of our street.

keobooks's avatar

I think the one thing parents should keep an eye on with kids that young are groups of older kids. They will most likely stay away if they know parents have an eye out for the littler ones, but once the parents are gone, some older kids pick on the younger ones. I remember being 7 or 8 and with my walker group. There was a group of 5th graders who would occasionally attack us with rotten crab apples, snow balls, rocks, you name it. No matter how nice the neighborhood, there is always a chance for some bullies now and then.

As a parent, you may never see the big kids acting like this unless you manage to go stealth.. like perhaps drive around the block a few times. I’d encourage your child to be vocal about telling you if something like this happens. I managed walking alone just fine from 2 – 4th grade (then we moved) But the big kids were sometimes a hassle.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@keobooks Thanks! I’ve seen a few bigger kids walking home, but they’ve always stayed away from the younger kids. I didn’t think about it being just because the adults were there. My son knows a lot about bullies and has even stood up to one before. His school has a pretty strict policy in place for bullies. They take it very seriously and even had an assembly about it on the second day of school. I’ll talk to him some more about the bigger kids.

keobooks's avatar

@Seaofclouds Those kids may be just fine. Most kids are. But if there are any bullies on the walk, you won’t see them. I don’t want to make you all paranoid. I’ve also heard that schools are more on top of this kind of thing than they were in the 70s. But I do think it’s worth keeping an eye or ear out about it.

These kids never actually hurt us, but they scared us pretty badly. I remember taking a longer route to school for a while because I didn’t want to pass this one boy’s house after he threw mudballs at my friends and me.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@keobooks No problem. I appreciate it and I’ll definitely keep an ear out for things.

MissAusten's avatar

I walked to school with a couple of friends or alone from kindergarten through most of sixth grade, until we moved out of the suburbs. Walking was much less disturbing than riding the bus. On the bus you can’t get away from the kids you don’t like.

@Seaofclouds There’s a wonderful book called “Free Range Kids” that I’d suggest for you. It will make you feel a lot more confident about giving your son age-appropriate independence. It’s also reassuring. For many reasons, kids are safer today than they have ever been.

It sounds like you have given him all of the knowledge he needs to safely walk himself to and from school. The only thing I’d add is what to do if a car starts following him (which is an extremely unlikely event). He should turn around and run the opposite direction, yelling his head off.

You could also make arrangements to take turns with other parents following the kids to school. Let them walk ahead, but always in sight, until they reach school. That way they have someone watching out for them but not holding their hands and making them feel like babies in front of their friends. You could also arrange to meet him a block or two from the school, maybe in a place where you’ll be able to see him coming but not walk with him the entire way.

Whatever you decide to do, just remember that you know him and the neighborhood best and you are the best judge of whether or not to let him walk alone!

Seaofclouds's avatar

@MissAusten Thank you. I will pick up that book later today. Thanks for the idea about a car following. There are so many things to think about and I like to think about as much as I can before it happens.

The main reason I asked the question is because I’ve learned the hard way that there are things that should be mentioned as a child starts getting more freedom that I just haven’t thought to mention. My first lesson was when he was allowed to go to a friends house alone. I never thought to tell him to come tell us before he went to a different friend’s house. So one night, we went to get him from his friend’s house only for them to tell us that he had left hours ago. About a half hour later, after calling the police and having a minor panic attack, we found him at the new neighbors house (who we didn’t even know had a kid). Lesson learned and discussed thoroughly. So, whenever something new comes along, I always ask other people that have been there so I don’t miss things like that anymore.

skfinkel's avatar

If you think the streets are generally safe to cross (ie. drivers are aware of children, not a particularly fast road, good signs, etc.) and you think your child has good sense and knows how to cross streets, I think it is great for him to walk to and from school. It is important not to make our children so fearful that we scare them—this is a good opportunity for his personal growth and personal power. Of course, it is important for him to be able to tell you if he feels it is scary to him (then he doesn’t have to do it yet) or if there are kids around who are not safe. But otherwise, this is a big and positive step to independence.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@skfinkel Thank you. I enjoy walking with him, so he won’t be doing it alone until he asks to. I completely agree that it is important for us not to make our children be afraid of everything around them. When I was my son’s age, I was going to the park with friends and by myself (it was a few blocks away from our house). I wasn’t afraid that someone was going to get me or try to hurt me. We had fun and I want my son to have that same level of fun without fear of everyone he doesn’t know.

flutherother's avatar

I walked to school from the age of five or six, though the roads were much less busy in those days, and I really enjoyed meeting up with other kids on the way. It was the beginning of independence and all kids did it. My children were also fortunate in being able to walk to school which they too did from quite an early age and in all weathers. I don’t remember any special instructions apart from dont shilly shally on the way. It is infinitely preferable to driving them to school.

Hibernate's avatar

Indeed a great question ^^ Hopefully it will help others too.

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