At what age can my kid go out on her own?

Whether it’s to school or with friends, learn when it’s okay to let your child venture out without adult supervision.

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Like any parent, you’ll have to deal with the day your child asks if he or she can go out with their friends or on their own. After all, it’s a very natural part of junior wanting to assert their independence as they grow.

Yet, just like deciding when your offspring is responsible enough to be left home on their own, you’ll have to figure out when it’s safe for them to venture out without adult supervision.

Jennifer Lim, 19, was not allowed to go out without an adult until the end of Secondary One. Although she had asked her mother multiple times if she could celebrate the end of PSLE  with her friends, her parent had always turned down her request. “I remember feeling so frustrated about the lack of freedom that I cried ― everyone was having fun and uploading cute pictures onto Facebook, except me. As I was good in school and at home, I could not understand why my mum was so against letting me go out with my friends.”

Jennifer isn’t alone. Although Singapore is relatively safe, many parents are still reluctant to allow their kids to go out without parental supervision. Yet, much as you would like to protect your kids from dangers outside, sooner or later, you will have to let your children leave the nest and spread their wings.

“Restricting a child from going out by herself when she is ready to do so may impact her confidence, independence, problem-solving skills, ability to assess risks, and ability to be street-smart.”

Clinical psychologist Dr Vaani Gunaseelan notes that most parents start to allow their typically developing kids to go out on their own when they are between 11 and 13 years old.  She cautioned, however, that parents should also consider their kid’s maturity and independence level, and whether they are confident about going out by themselves, before making their decision.

She adds, “Restricting a child from going out by herself when she is ready to do so may impact her confidence, independence, problem-solving skills, ability to assess risks, and the ability to be street-smart. Socially, she may feel uninvolved in her peer group if they hang out together often in bonding activities.”

Of course, you should also make sure that your kid is ready to venture into the public unsupervised before letting her do so. “Introducing freedom and preparing a child to go out independently should be done in gradual steps, so that both parent and child can adjust to it,” Dr Vaani advises.

Here are several things your child should be clear about before you allow her to go out by herself for the first time:

* Mature and responsible She should be able to take care of herself when she is outside. Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist, states that your child must be able to evaluate and act responsibly and maturely to risks.

* The rules you set for her She should know the rules that she has to follow, such as things she can and cannot do, places she should avoid and the curfew timing.

* Be mindful of her surroundings She should be observant and know what is happening around her ― this will help her figure her way around. “Ensure that your child knows her routes and travel procedure to and from the destination,” stresses Dr Vaani.

* Knows how to get help She should know who she can call to ask for help. Get her to memorise either yours or your spouse’s number, so that if she loses her phone, she can still contact you.

* Understand the dangers she can encounter in public Tell her about child predators and unsafe motorists, so that she can be wary when she is outside.