Walking home from school without mum or dad: What’s the correct age?

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“Daddy, after school some days, can I walk home with Michael?” Oh my word, this was a head-spinny parenting moment. I wasn’t sure what I thought of Helen walking home from school without me being with her.

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Helen wants to walk back from school with a friend instead of me. Should I allow it?

To be fair, this was a perfectly reasonable request. She wants some independence. Considering she’s teetering on the verge of being nine-years-old, I should have seen this coming.

How though, how do I react? The protective father in me says: “Traffic! I can’t have my kid walking home from school alongside all that traffic without me being within arm’s reach!”

My head instantly filled up with various “What if?” scenarios. What if Michael wasn’t at school one day? What if it was raining heavily?  What if what if what if?

The realist in me fought back. Helen has to learn how to deal with traffic and crossing roads without me being there. It is, after all, an essential life skill.

She and her sister are usually out in public with me and I constantly remind them about looking left and right before stepping in to the road. Undertaking a short walk with a school friend could actually be quite an educational experience for her.

I thought back to my own childhood. At what age did I start walking home from school and to the local town on my own?

In truth, it was about the same age. The big difference was that I grew up in the Cotswolds. Helen is growing up very close to London near all manner of busy A-roads.

While the roads around Helen’s school are busy, the walk itself is a gentle stroll and there would be loads and loads of other kids and mums and dads around. While it would involve crossing a couple of roads, there is no jungle to navigate, no minefields, no enemy troops.

Helen’s not even talking about walking all the way home. She’s simply talking about walking around the corner to where I often park the car. It just so happens that Michael lives on the same street.

My other daughter, Izzy, is in reception class so finishes school a few minutes before Helen. If I agree to the request, I could collect Izzy, walk to the car and wait for Helen to turn up a few minutes later.

The other part of the equation is Michael. I’ve met him a few times. I can’t say I know him that well but he’s well behaved, polite and seems very nice. I’ve had a quick chat with his mum and she’s very happy for the two of them to walk back together.

Yes, okay, I do have a few genuine concerns about Helen walking back with a school friend. You’ve probably guessed that they generally revolve around the traffic.

The bigger issue is accepting the fact my daughter is getting older. She wants some independence and wants to spend time with her friends instead of her family. Like all these parenting milestones, I knew this time would come, it’s simply happening sooner than I expected.

I haven’t yet agreed that Helen can walk back with Michael, but I am minded to let her do it a few times and see how it works out. I know it’s the first of many similar requests and with each one she will become that bit more independent from her family. To think the quest for independence starts with a request to walk some of the way home from school with a friend!

Have you been through this already? At what age did your children start walking home from school on their own? Do you think eight is too young? Whatever your thoughts, please do leave a comment below, I’d love to hear them.


9 thoughts on “Walking home from school without mum or dad: What’s the correct age?”

    1. This isn’t really a walk home. It’s more a walk round the corner to where I’d meet her. I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it. I don’t plan to rush into any decisions.

  1. My instinct says she’s too young. If literally zero roads to cross, I would still be cautious. The road crossing seals it as a no for me. Year 6, the final year of juniors is about right I think. To prepare them for the big leap to secondary school. She will sulk and probably hate you. But hey, that’s kids for ya! Good luck

    1. Oh yes, there could be a lot of sulking! This blog post has really split opinion. I still can’t decide where I stand on the issue. half of me thinks it’s a great way to give a tiny bit of freedom. Half of me thinks we need to wait a while. I’m still mulling it over.

      1. Hi John
        The freedom you feel she should be given will come soon enough. Oh and that’s when the fun really starts! Lol
        I think the fact that you feel so split about it. The doubts you obviously have, well, perhaps in that you have answered your own question? ????

        1. Oh that moment is here! It’s nothing major, but she will ask to use a kitchen knife or to cross a quiet road without help, that kind of thing. And yes, she isn’t yet doing this small walk without someone being with her, but I know it is only a matter of time.

    1. That is an unequivocal position if ever I heard one! We’ll see, still no decisions made. It’s a softly softly one this time around.

  2. At my daughter’s school, they HAVE to be brought by a parent until they are in Year 5 (age 9/10). Then it is up to the parents what they do. I can completely understand why you feel so nervous about it. I know I will be panicking like crazy about it when our time rolls around…

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

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