The world is full of danger and we don't want our children to get hurt, but sooner or later we have to start letting them stand on their own two feet. Here's how to help them take risks - as safely as possible:
1. Prepare them
If you've decided they're old enough to go alone to the shop, you have to prepare them first. Do they need to cross a road, for instance? You can't give a minimum age for this because it depends on the child - some seven year olds are more responsible than some 10 year olds. Try a dry run first, with them taking charge but you by their side.
2. Bite your lip
Don't say 'stop' or 'be careful' every time something seems a bit scary. Ask yourself what's the worst that can happen. If it's just falling over, that's acceptable, isn't it? Children learn how to deal with real life risks through rough and tumble play and by making mistakes. If you don't offer them some kind of risk or challenge, then they'll find it elsewhere. So point out possible dangers in a low-key way and let them have a go.
3. Watch and learn from other parents
Share your fears to put them into perspective. You'll find some parents are even more anxious than you while others allow their kids to take risks you wouldn't even consider. Listening to everyone else's views will help you work out what you think is acceptable for you and your child.
4. Be sensible
If they want to do something a bit more exciting try a reasonably safe area such as a local adventure playground, designed to give children challenges in a controlled situation. Find out where your local one is by going to www.directgov.org.uk
Encourage them to play on skateboards, bikes, roller skates, scooters etc but make sure they take basic safety measures eg wearing safety helmets.
The incidence of child abductions/murders hasn't increased in 30 years, though we hear more about them these days
What happens if you don't let your child take risks?
- They lack confidence
- They lack co-ordination
- May have problems adjusting to secondary school where there are more challenges and more need to think for themselves
Talk about it!
Are you overprotecting your child? Discuss this and other family issues with other parents in our Chat area.