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Fostering independence and peer relations

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Okay, I find myself second guessing what seems reasonable for my tween. I have a dd who turns 12 in a couple of months and is homeschooled. I have a few areas of uncertainty. Leaving her alone at home and/or traveling near to my work on foot or by bus. Social networking sites such as facebook for keeping in touch with friends both local and long distance.

I work half-time and can take her to work with me (I work at a university about 15 minutes from home - well 20 or 25 with current construction), but she would like to stay home occasionally. She could do her online classes and other school work, but also of course would be playing computer games and surfing the internet to some extent. We live at the edge of town, with no near neighbors. We do have a friend about 1/2 mile down the road who regularly is on our property for a couple hours every morning (she keeps her horse on our farm). We have two dogs to keep dd company as well. However, we do occasionally have random strangers drive up and knock.

She would also like to go to an art class which would mean walking across the university campus, riding a university bus a short distance and then walking a couple of blocks to the art class location. The area is relatively safe, with a few homeless that hang out in the area, and the usual statistics of a university - occasional crimes against students walking alone. This class would take place in early afternoon and the trip would be in all well populated areas. She may also be able to ride a bus to the city library where she could hang out awhile and perhaps attend a teen writing class.

Lastly, facebook. Many of her friends are on, but we just told her you have to be 13. I don't particularly want to lie about her age even though it is a rather random rule. I think it would help her keep in touch with a couple of good friends who attend school and are often too busy to get together often. She also has a few friends scattered over the country that she knows from online classes and has met in person once from our travels. They all facebook despite being under 13 for the most part. Dd sometimes feels a little left out of the loop by not being online.

Anyway, my nearly 12 year old is a bit of a dreamer, but generally responsible girl. I want her to begin to learn to care for herself in the world but not get into a situation she can't handle. I think all of these activities are appropriate. She will have a phone with her. However, I have friends who feel like letting a 12 year old travel around town even for short distances alone is crazy. We are not in a big city or high crime area. Am I missing something and hopelessly naive? I know I roamed town all the time as a kid, but I was usually with a brother and/or friends. It was also eons ago when we didn't wear seat belts or bike helmets either. Dd says she wants to go away to college when the time comes. She may end up in a city and I would like her to have a clue of how to take care of herself. We do walk and take the bus together and I try to point things out to pay attention to, but I don't think it will really sink in until mom is not there to take care of everything. Thoughts? Advice?
post #2 of 12
I think a lot depends on the individual child and the area in question. From what you've said, the art class sounds fine to me. I think your rule about facebook is reasonable, though you should think about how you want to monitor that once she is 13.

Staying home is tricky. An occasional stranger knocking wouldn't concern me if your dd knows how to handle herself and feels comfortable making choices about stuff like whether or not to answer the door. Have you done some short trial runs on that, while you run some quick errands or something?
post #3 of 12
I do think it is somewhat kid and location specific. That being said I've let my now 12 year old ride the bus to his grandmother's for a couple of years now. He rides his bike downtown independently (where there are all sorts of the usual downtown characters) and he now stays home on his own for a couple of hours at a time. We've been increasing the time over the last year.

We live in a fairly typical smallish university city (100,000+ people). We do live in a neighbourhood where there are a lot of people at home during the day who he could turn to in town and we have multiple back up contacts - friends/family etc. He's a very responsible kid, not prone to interacting much with strangers and is somewhat wary with a really strong sense of personal space so I am not concerned he would get into any situations with strangers that he couldn't get out of.

If your instincts are that she's got a good head on her shoulders, that the real risk of anything bad happening is low and that she's ready for this I would say ignore the shocked friends and follow your gut. Perhaps she could (if she hasn't already) take a babysitting/first aid course which would walk her through some strategies for being at home without an adult. I didn't find it necessary for my son, but my SIL has used that strategy and it makes her feel better that my nephew has had that training.

As for the facebook thing - lol - I am a facebook hold out because frankly I just don't get it. Can't help you there really except to say my instinct would be "no" for multiple reasons (safety, not using peer pressure to justify a decision, following the stated guidelines, and the time suck components) unless I really felt it was hampering her ability to connect. With email, blogs, skype among a variety of other tools, I am not sure my kid could make a case for that. But then again I don't get facebook at all

good luck!
post #4 of 12
I can only speak for myself and my own area. My DD (currently 13) has been staying home for periods of time since age 10. Granted, she's in school and I only work part-time. It's not a daily thing but I have no problem with her being home alone.

City busses... no way I'm allowing that for a couple more years. We live in a smaller suburb but in a huge county with a very large major city. Missing a stop can leave you in a bad area. University bus within the university grounds, I would allow it. I let DD walk from building to building at one of our big parks (lots of museums, tourists and roaming security.) I still haven't been comfortable at most public places though... I let her go to the mall with friends and walk around on their own but I'm still IN the mall.

We allow Facebook. Her friends live all over the county. It's a nice way for them to keep in touch. The rule is that I'm her "friend" until she turns 18. Many of her friends actually requested me as a friend too which is sorta funny. I have her passwords and I do randomly check her pages and keep an eye on who she is "friending."
post #5 of 12
Hi OP. I think you need to follow your gut. You're right that she needs a chance to grow up, BEFORE she is already 'grown-up'. it *is* about the child, not the age or rules. My eldest I definitly leave home alone to run errands, and he's caring for his siblings. My friends' eldest? not a chance.

One thing I'll share, but please don't misinterpret this. I'm not a fan of facebook, as a concept, and I'm not on it nor are my kids. but I do think sticking to age-based rules is something you might want to think more on. NOT because I think she should be on facebook, but because it's again about competence and if you trust your child, not how old she is. Just like the by-laws about how old a kid can be to stay home alone, or babysit. It's not every kid that is automatically responsible at 13 or 11. My kids and I talk about this aspect of our culture often. That somehow overnight, you're suddenly responsible enough to drink or gamble. uh-uh. If you think she's ready and would enjoy fbook, then allow it.

It's a process, one you're starting now, and i think your logic is sound and your gut is pointing you in the right direction for your DD.
post #6 of 12
I leave my 8 year-old at home for short periods, (10-20 minutes) with instructions to not answer the door, not to try and cook anything and to go to a specific, trusted neighbour if she has any problems.
I wouldn't hesitate to leave an older kid as long as she had access to a telephone.
post #7 of 12
My 12 year old:

*can stay at home alone for short periods of time.

*has a facebook account with all privacy settings in place, and is only friends with people she knows IRL. It's linked to my email, so I get an email about every little thing that happens on her account (which is mostly really stupid kid stuff).

The bus thing hasn't come up for us. Is there a buddy she could take the class with so she would have more independence from you but not be totally alone? Are the any good self-defense classes in your town? Eventually she's going to ride the bus, and I don't know that a 17 year old is safer on the bus than a 12 year old. How do you plan to prepare her for riding the bus *when the time comes*?

It is our job to foster independence in our kids.
post #8 of 12
My oldest will be 12 in Nov.

She has had a facebook acct for a year. Most of her friends have them too. I check it periodically & she had the privacy settings set to an area I'm comfortable with. 99% of the time she's playing games on it.

She has been staying home by herself for 2-3 years. Now she babysits her sisters when we have to go out or during the school year if they have a day off that the school district I work in doesn't. It was half days, this year it'll be full days, but my school district has more days off than theirs. She babysits other people's children too.

busses, we don't have them so it isn't an issue. Right now everything she needs to get to is within 1mile. When she goes to Grade 7 in the fall she has to walk to the school 5 houses away & then takes a school bus from there. when we move I'll most likely be driving her there as the designated schools won't be in the area we'll be moving to.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hurray, I finally made it back to my thread. LOL

My daughter is used to spending short time alone at home, usually less than an hour. I trust that she won't answer the door. I guess I imagine weird situations like she walks the dogs out just as some stranger drives up sort of thing. Of course, we can talk about what to do in that situation too. LOL I'll probably worry about a meteor hitting the house too. I think I can work out a day where she will only be home alone about 3 hours. We can try that for awhile until we're both comfortable with it.

Facebook - we can friend her and insist on only in real life friends. She would share her password. I guess it bugs me to lie about her age. A rule follower at heart I guess. I do worry about it being a time suck as well, but perhaps it is better to learn to deal with it now then later. It just seems that with the kids I know that are not much older than her, they communicate all their get togethers via facebook. It isn't like they try to leave out kids who aren't on facebook, they just don't think to make a special effort to send another email or make a call. Even with her friends now, sometimes she feels a little left out as they continue conversations started online that she didn't know about. Not a big deal, but the social stuff is pretty tough at this age anyway.

Bus travel - I'll ride the bus with her a couple of times and see what we think. It is a short term class so not a concern for the long term. However, future classes may come up and it would simplify things if she could do some of the traveling herself. I'll consider this a work in progress.
post #10 of 12
OP, I hear you on the condoning-lying thing, but i see it rather as disagreeing with an arbitrary age-rule. It's truly silly to elect 13 as the age that they are ready for fbook. so when my kids do something that is 'against an age rule", like staying home aone under the age of 11, we frame it in this way. it is about the person, not the age.
post #11 of 12
We struggled with the facebook rule. Ultimately, we told our 12 year old he would have to wait until he was 13. Even though we don't agree with the rule it is still facebooks product. Their company, their rules.
post #12 of 12
I have a dd who will be 12 in October. We live in a suburban bordering on rural area. She began staying home alone for short periods of time about 2 years ago. This past school year she was home alone for some time both before and after school and was very responsible about getting herself to the school bus stop on time. She did stay home alone some full days when I had to work and there was no school but these were usually spent with a same age friend whose mom also had to work--similar rules and values helped with the success of having them together.

She will start middle school next year and has expressed interest in after school activities. On activity days she will be taking two buses to the library until one of us can pick her up. I expect she will be getting a phone when this starts.

She does not watch her sister or any other children other than for a quick run to the convenience store or if I walk the dog mostly because she hasn't shown an interest in caring for other children and I would like her to take a babysitting class before she takes care of others.

She did get a fb this summer--my original plan was to wait until she was 13 or older mainly because I didn't really see a need for her to be on facebook. I changed my mind when her best friend's family decided to take an 8 week trip to Europe and Africa this summer--facebook has allowed them to keep in touch all summer (thus a reason for being on facebook) I have set all of her security settings, have her password and she is one of my "friends" so I can check up on what is going on--also her profile picture is a picture of one of our pets--which real friends will recognize but will also make her less immediately recognizable as a child.

I do have some people who feel that she has too much freedom---and others who feel she doesn't have enough---this amount of freedom has worked well for our family and I do anticipate giving her more over the course of the next year (crossing the busy street in town to get to the conveniece store is a hard but necessary hurddle for me to get over.)
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