I don’t usually write serious posts like this but this is a topic that I feel needs to be addressed. On a recent morning, I spotted not one, not two but three kids walking to school alone. Now, what was startling to me was the fact that these children were young – the oldest one looked no older than six (he was walking alone), and the other two looked to be about four and five respectively. In this latter case, I attribute the situation to “the blind leading the blind.” What’s going on? Why are children who are not old enough to make any type of responsible decision, let alone fend for themselves in the event of an emergency or otherwise, left to get to school via their own devices? There was a time when kids were attributed much more responsibilities than they are now. Granted, it has only been in the past hundred years or so where we have cut back on the chores and work details that were previously commonplace. That being said, there is clearly a contingent of parents who still assume that their young children are able to handle things on their own – including walking to school. While it is easy to criticize decisions on behalf of these parents, let’s consider some of the reasons that they might be making these choice for their children: 1) Lack of affordable childcare – In this day and age, daycare expenses are out of reach for many parents. This is particularly the case for those who are raising their kids on their own, or on one income. Before and after school programs don’t always exist in many areas, and if they do, they are often underfunded, resulting in parents having to pick up the slack. For families on a budget, this is often problematic. 2) Lack of childcare options – In many cases, there are huge waiting lists for daycare (affordable or not), or very limited options for parents of small children. Standard work hours dictate a 9-5pm mandate, which generally doesn’t fit in with school hours which are often 9-3:30. For a parent that has a commute, either on public transit or via car, they will need to leave the house well before school hours. This dilemma presents anxious parents with the decision of acquiring childcare (if it’s available at all) or letting the kids fend for themselves. Sadly, the latter is often the only choice for many parents. 3) A false sense of security – It’s true. Many of us think we live in “safe” neighbourhoods – at least ones where kids would never be approached or worse – abducted. We’re lulled into feeling that the “community spirit” is alive and well and living in the blocks that exist between our child’s school and home. As much as we may want to believe that this is the case, the reality could be something much different. It may not be, and chances are that your child’s walk home will be uneventful, but why take the chance? Alarmist? Perhaps, but the sad reality is that there have been far too many incidents and “near misses” involving young children who are traveling alone. Now, more than ever, is the time when parents need to keep a close eye on where their children are at all times. No, it isn’t necessarily more dangerous today than it was many years ago; we are just more aware of what could happen. As well, the tools and devices used by those who wish ill will upon our kids are more sophisticated and covert. Technology has raised the bar regarding our kids’ safety, and many parents are struggling to keep up with the latest gadgetry. All told, the issue of children walking to school or home unaccompanied needs to be addressed. The larger issues noted above, particularly the difficulty for parents to acquire affordable daycare, are not going to go away. As a society, we need to remedy the situations that present mothers and fathers with having no other alternative than to let their child fend for themselves on the street. We’ve all been jolted into a somber reality when hearing about a child that has gone missing, or worse. Let’s end these instances by banding together for the greater good of our kids. What age do you think is appropriate for a child to walk to or from home from school? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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