One of the most difficult things for many parents is allowing their children to walk to school on their own. However with a few rules and a lot of common sense, walking to school can be very safe.
It takes only one news story about a child abduction to make parents uneasy about having their children walk to school on their own. Still, for many parents, driving their children to and from school each day may not be feasible, and eventually most of us will decide that our children are mature enough to walk to school on their own.
Police officer, Paul Lizotte suggests that even before children walk to school for the first time on their own, parents should be well acquainted with the route they’ll take. “Usually on a weekend you’ll say to your child, take me on the route you take to school, and start off the normal time you’d leave home to start your walk. And then say to them ‘Stop, show me where you stop to play, show me where you pick up someone on the way.’ If they have to stop at a friend’s house along the way, note the address, the person’s name, the phone number. If they stop to play in a drainage ditch, or a construction site, or an old abandoned building, you can explain to them at that time the dangers of being in these places. When they arrive at school, note the time, so now you have a pretty good indication of how long it takes for your child to go to school.”
Many schools across the country now operate Safe Arrival Programs for children in the elementary and even junior high or middle school level. This means if your child doesn’t show up at school by a certain time, you’ll be notified. This safe arrival concept can also be used when your child is walking home from school, explains R.C.M.P. officer, Archie Alifrez. “Establish a regiment for them. Tell them ‘you’re walking to school, you have to back home by this time, so that we know you’re on route. If you’re ten minutes late or diverted, then let the parent know.’ Children walking to and from school should get to know the route very well and so should the parent.”
Alifrez stresses that it’s an absolute must for children to walk with a buddy, and the more buddies the better. “From very, very young we go into the schools and teach the kids the buddy system. Kids go everywhere in pairs. Somebody might trip, fall hurt themselves, and someone can always run for help.”
What if your worst fear should come true and your child doesn’t return home from school at his regularly scheduled time? “What we suggest, now that you have the list of all the locations that he or she goes to, is to find out if those people have seen the child”, says Lizotte. “If there’s nothing there, do the child’s walk. Make sure that area is clear, that they haven’t just dawdled a little longer because children will do that. At that point in time, if you still haven’t found your child, then you phone the police immediately.”
With a child who is capable and mature enough, walking to school is generally very safe. But never hesitate to insist that your child walks with at least one other friend, follows a few ground rules and uses her common sense.
Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.
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