As your child gets older, they will want to become more independent. Allowing children to start doing things by themselves will help increase their self-confidence and is an important part of growing up. Teaching children about personal safety and giving them the skills to make sensible decisions will help them to be safe when they go out without you.
What the law says
There is no set legal age at which you can start allowing your child to go out by themselves. As a parent, you must consider how mature your child is and what you think they will cope with. This will vary according to your child’s age and personality. Preparing children for independence is something you can start doing when they are very young- long before they will actually be going anywhere without you.
The NSPCC has produced a guide for parents called 'Is my child ready to go out alone' which contains a useful 'Safe and Sound Checklist'. This advises parents on key things they should teach their children before allowing them to go out without an adult.
It is important that your child understands that not everybody they meet is trustworthy. However, telling your child never to talk to strangers can be too simplistic. There might be situations where your child needs help from a stranger because they have become lost or injured when they are out without you. When they start going out by themselves, children will need to be confident enough to ask for help if they need it. This is why teaching your children the idea of ‘Safe Strangers’ is important. These are people who we don’t know, but we can see signs that they are probably a good person to ask for help. An example of a ‘safe stranger’ would be a Police Officer, who is wearing a uniform which shows he or she is there to help people.
Helping your teenager stay safe
Teenage children and young people tend to spend more time with their friends and less time with their parents. They might develop new hobbies, hang out in new places, have a romantic partner and experiment with alcohol. This can be an unsettling time for parents, as you worry if they are staying safe. Support and advice about parenting teenagers is available through a number of services:
- Relate has advice for parents about how to handle the new challenges that parenting a teenager can bring.
- Family Lives has a helpline for parents and a forum where you can talk to other parents about life with a teenager.
- Suzy Lamplugh Trust is a leading charity promoting personal safety awareness. Online advice is available on various topics relevant to young people, such as personal safety for students, attending festivals and going for a run.
- Drink Aware have an information section for parents on how to talk to children about alcohol, why children might drink and how to prevent underage drinking.
If you have become concerned about the ways your teenager is spending their time outside of the home, you could encourage them to join a local club. Becoming part of a club or starting a new hobby can be a great way for young people to develop skills and independence. If you would like to find leisure activities or clubs for your child, Surrey Family Information Service can help. Our Directory hosts information on hundreds of local activities, sports and social clubs for young people in Surrey.
Youth Centres in Surrey are safe places for young people to spend time with their friends, outside of the family home. Youth workers will be on site to help lead activities and to provide support for young people.