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Children need time away from their parents. Being with friends lets them relax without feeling like they need to be on high alert.
Parents worry their children will make poor choices, which is why it’s difficult to let them go without adult supervision. It has to happen eventually, but when?
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What Age Should You Let Your Child Go Out Alone?
The age a child can start going out with friends depends on the maturity of the children. Start small. In the early tween years, let them spend time together away from but within easy reach of a parent. Gradually give them more freedom as you both get used to the lack of parental guidance.
What to Consider When Letting Your Child Go Out Alone
Most of us can remember wanting to have freedom from our parents. We had a desire to spend time with our friends without adults constantly watching our every move.
Our children have those same urges. At some point, they will want to go out with their friends unencumbered by their parents.
Often, the right solution is to ease into parent-free leisure time. Give children some opportunities to be with friends while you’re nearby before leaving them completely on their own.
Along with the gradual journey into unsupervised friend time, there are some other issues to take into consideration.
1. Maturity Level Matters
The most important factor that determines when a child can go out with friends is the maturity of all children involved.
Ask yourself how secure you are that your child will make good choices when away from you. If you’re not sure, ask them some questions. These might include:
- How do you talk to your friends if they want to do something you don’t think is safe?
- What do you do if someone offers you drugs or alcohol?
- Who do you call if you are lost or injured?
You also need to consider the maturity of the children your child is going out with. If you don’t know those kids, get to know them. Find out what you can about them, so you feel somewhat satisfied that they will not be bad influences.
2. You Need to Accept Uncertainty
Every time your child leaves home, there is a possibility of danger. At some point, we parents need to accept some degree of uneasiness. There is always the chance your child will do something uncharacteristically unsafe on a whim.
There are also the children whose personalities change the moment they are away from their parents. It is so common that psychologists have coined the term Eddie Haskell syndrome.
Do what you can to keep children safe while also realizing they need some space to make mistakes. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn.
3. Mitigate Serious Danger
I grew up in a home where firearms were plentiful. At any point, I could have grabbed a gun and ammunition without being noticed. I knew how to shoot, I knew how to clean a rifle, and I knew exactly how dangerous those guns were.
Most children are aware of the dangers that guns represent. Unfortunately, many find that danger to be enticing. Those who have easy access to these weapons may produce them to show off to their friends.
Guns aren’t the only danger that is out there. Drugs are pervasive at a much younger age than many parents want to believe.
I had my first encounter with drugs at age 12 when a friend’s older sister offered marijuana to me. I was even younger when I was offered alcohol. I had the presence of mind to say no, but not all kids are prepared for this at such a young age.
Make sure you have some of these difficult talks with your children before they go out with friends. Even if you think they are too young for that kind of danger, it’s never too young to be careful.
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You can also put a tracking app on the child’s phone, so you can find them if they are ever lost.
4. Staying Close to Home
My husband and I had an addition built onto our house. It’s a room large enough to fit a gathering of kids who just want to hang out and enjoy each other.
There is nothing fancy in this room. It’s just a sofa, a few chairs, a couple of tables and a storage bench. It has an exterior door, so the kids can come and go as they please without parents telling them what to do.
As it turns out, that space isn’t just for my children. The neighborhood we live in is filled with kids of all ages. At any given time, we may have six or seven children from ages eight to 15 in the room attached to the back of our house.
We are close enough to hear their laughter but far enough away that we don’t meddle. They can quickly run into the main part of the house to grab snacks or use the restroom, but they can also be certain their secret plots remain hidden from adults.
The parents in our neighborhood are grateful that children have a place to go that is close but distant.
It’s so difficult to know what age a child can go out with friends unsupervised that it’s nice to utilize a space like this. If you or your kids aren’t ready to be away, a parent-free space in or near the home is a good alternative.
5. What Age is the Right Age?
My son began hanging out with friends away from home as a tween. He was 11 years old. We went over all of the safety measures we thought were necessary, insisted he have his phone with him and that we always knew where he was.
If he was riding bikes with friends, we needed a call or text to tell us where they ended up or if they decided to go someplace new.
My daughter is now 11. Thus far, she is satisfied going to a friend’s house or inviting her friends over. She hasn’t yet asked if she can go out without parents. I will let her when she feels she is ready.
Every Kid Will Mature At Different Times
Not every child is mature enough to go out with friends at age 11. Parents need to decide for themselves when their kids are ready to roam.
What do you think is the right age for a child to go out with friends? Tell us in the comments!
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