When Should We Set Our Kids Free?
Your kids want to be outside and play with their friends, but at what point do you stop watching their every move and just let them go?
Of course, there is no blanket answer. To one parent, their child is ready to roam free at age 8. To another, that day won't come until the preteen years.
It's a highly debated issue, but the experts say when parents are faced with the decision, many factors need to be considered.
For the first time this summer, Alyssa Bahary of Ocean Township "begrudgingly" allowed her soon-to-be 13-year-old daughter to ride her bike with friends and hang out away from home and without direct supervision.
"I can trust her," Bahary said. "I feel comfortable."
Much of that comfort, though, comes with a smartphone application that allows Bahary to track her daughter's phone and whereabouts at all times.
"At least I can be a bit of a stalker, while she feels as though I'm giving her some independence," she said.
According to family dynamics consultant Tracey Serebin in Ringwood, a child's emotional and mental development must be considered when choosing whether or not they can handle themselves. Age is just a number.
"If a child is what I consider an old soul and they're babysitting at 11, then you feel comfortable that they're more responsible," Serebin said, adding that an older child who's been coddled for years and hasn't had much individual experience may not be ready to walk a few blocks alone.
Neighborhood safety is another key, Serebin said. A row of suburban homes on a quiet road, for example, is likely to present a less dangerous situation than a congested city street.
And if parents are ever on the fence, they can take cues from other families in the community.
"It almost becomes a collective energy," Serebin said.