How to prepare a child to return from school on their own?

The new school year is a change in the rhythm of life for the whole family. We get up in the morning, prepare the children for school and ... well, there is a dilemma: walk the child away? Pick them up from the facility? Should you allow for independent returns and if so, when? We check what the law says about it and suggest how to prepare students for this next step into adulthood.

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1. Independent return from school - parents' concerns

Probably each of us once had a friend whose parents took him to school at least until the end of high school. Although it could have aroused laughter and pity at the time, we often change our minds as parents. We are afraid to let our children go to school on their own. No wonder, as there is much talk about the dangers along the way: speeding cars, sex criminals.

- I have an 8-year-old daughter and I drive her to school - says Hania's mother. - I know that maybe she should be walking alone, but I'm afraid to let her go - she admits. - I don't know how to tell if it's ready. How to prepare it? - wonders.

Lidka, Roksana's mother, has similar concerns: - I'm taking my daughter away, other parents from her class too. This is the second year of primary school. I don't even know if it is legal for such a child to be able to go to school alone.

2. Independent return from school - norms and legal regulations

We check what are the legal regulations in this area.

In the light of the Road Traffic Act, pursuant to Art. 43, the child may move independently on a "separate area (...) designated for pedestrian traffic" after the age of 7. Younger children must be accompanied by a minimum age of 10.

This means that formally, a first-grader can go to school independently (as long as he has not started education earlier than before the age of 7), while 10-year-olds can pick up their younger siblings from school or kindergarten. The exact date of birth is important here, not the year itself. This means that children in the same class will be able to go to school independently at different times.

Many parents are not convinced by this. The fears that something will happen to the child are too strong. Others do not trust their children, who seem less independent than their peers from years ago.

- Thirty years ago, when I was little, there were different times - sighs Lidka. - I walked around with a key around my neck, and so did all the children I knew. But it was not so dangerous, not so many cars on the road, nor so many people heard about pedophilia.

- You didn't hear it, but it doesn't mean that there were no accidents - Krzysztof, Lidia's husband, interjects. He works from home, so he is responsible for picking up the children from school and staying with them until Lidka returns from work.

Today, it is often the parents who have more fears than the pupils. However, it should be borne in mind that each child is different and will reach appropriate maturity at a different point in time. The parent who agrees to the child's independent return should inform the educational institution about this fact and sign the declaration. Similar requirements apply when the child is picked up by older siblings at least 10 years old - that is, informing the facility and providing a written declaration to educators.

3. Returning from school on your own - when can a child be allowed? How to prepare?

Paulina Świderska, a social worker, specialist in sociology, pedagogy and psychology, notes: - There is no one universal answer to the question regarding the independent way of a child to school. When considering this option, the level of infrastructure, the distance between home and school and the child's maturity should be taken into account.

What should a parent pay attention to in the first place? - We have to consider to what extent the road is safe: is it a dirt road, is there a sidewalk, are there pedestrian crossings, how safe the area is - lists Paulina Świderska. This is especially true when children finish school late and it gets dark early. It is then a good idea to organize a group of neighborhood children to come back from school together. Children must have reflective elements on their clothes and backpacks, and they can also be equipped with flashlights to increase their visibility on the road.

When can a parent be sure that their child will be able to make it on the way to school?

- We must be sure that the child knows how to behave, knows the route and knows how to react to possible contact attempts by strangers - emphasizes Paulina Świderska. It advises on how to prepare a young person for independence in stages. - At the beginning, it is worth making sure that the child knows the route, whether he knows how to navigate the road and where to go. It is worth starting to gradually introduce a little independence, but at the beginning under the control of parents. This independence should be expanded over time. Once we are sure that the child will arrive safely at school, we can let them do so.

Can this certainty be associated with the age of the child? The issue of age is debatable. Young children can be very cautious and mature, while teenagers can be helpless or irresponsible. There will be an individual time for each child that the parent should feel.

This moment must be preceded by training the child in the rules of safe road movement. - You can never be sure, unfortunately - warns Paulina Świderska. She notices that children can be erratic, make risky decisions, and are susceptible to the influence of their peers. However, the parent must take the risk and at some stage simply trust the child, taking into account the degree of maturity.

Overprotection and many years of escorting the student to school may cause not only the lack of independence and dependence of the child on the parent, but also ridicule in the peer environment. Children ruthlessly condemn less resourceful people. This means that if you want to protect your baby, you can hurt your baby more. - You have to take a risk and let the first time go on your own - encourages Paulina Świderska.

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