Kids: when can they start going out by themselves?

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First words, first step, moving from nappies to the potty, starting school: every milestone our children’s growing up journey, if you really think about it, is linked to a progressive gain of more autonomy and independence from us parents, the people who gave them life.  

The different stages of their development unquestionably make doubts and perplexities spring up in the mind of every mum and dad.  

Lots of questions, precious few answers. Suggestions, recommendations, and the experiences of friends, acquaintances, grandparents and relatives: we try to grab any bit of information, afraid that we won’t know how to act in certain situations.

And as our kids grow, so do our fears. 

Small children, small problems. Big children, big problems.”Ever come across this saying?

We’re not here to ponder whether this is true or not – shall we talk about the fact that as parents we find ourselves facing a brand new world, and taking a step into the complete unknown?  but as children approach adolescence, our worries do start to multiply. 

Until finally the fateful day comes, the one when they ask us:  Mum, dad, can I go out with my friends by myself?”

Rather just a concern, for a lot of parents this is a moment of pure and sheer terror!

Alas, sooner or later this moment comes for everyone, especially if your kids are aged around 12-13. So, you need to resign yourself to it. 

Even if you feel sick in the pit of your stomach, thwarting this desire for independence is a big mistake. The parents’ job, in fact, is to gradually help their kids leave childhood behind. 

Maybe it will be a trip to the pizza place, a house party, a night at the cinema or a walk to get some ice-cream; this is the age when children start demanding and insisting on gaining more autonomy. 

Come on, let’s be honest: we can still remember doing that ourselves!

The question to end all questions: how do you manage the first evening outings for kids of this age?

 Let’s find out together

1 – Say yes, but set boundaries: first of all, they are not 18 yet! This means they cannot do what they want and that clear limits must be set. 

For example, rules around the time by which they are expected to be back. A true classic. But even around setting the time you should go pick them up – a decision that is not up for discussion, of course! Bar really special occasions, kids should only go out on weekends. And they shouldn’t make a habit of it!

2 – Check their plans: ok, there is no need for a police-style interview, but you need to apply a fair dose of control. 

Ask them where they intend to go, with whom, and to do what.  And feel free to ring the other parents up for a spot of monitoring, especially in the case of a house party. 

3 – Explain, don’t forbid: kids start having house parties start around age 13, and they all want to go. Rather than listing what they can’t do, it might be better to explain to them what our expectations are.
Expressions such as “I expect you not to drink tonight” might have greater impact on their psyche than “don’t drink”.

4 – Dialogue is key: at this age, talking is important, keeping a dialogue going, maybe even over the dinner table. Explain to them what going out by themselves entails and the consequences certain choices may have. 

Some research studies relating to at-risk behaviours (such as experimenting with smoking or drinking) have demonstrated how freely talking about these issues within the family unit might help reduce the problem. 

The simulation of a specific situation as part of a conversation gives the young person the opportunity to consider a number of options, leading them to reflect and increase their capacity to think critically. 

Around 12-13 of age therefore, our kids wish to be independent, and trying to hinder this need is not the right thing to do. However, we should find – together! – the right ways in which to manage this growing desire for freedom. 

Always remember that there are no fixed or sure-fire rules when it comes to discipline and parenting: common sense, love and respect towards each other should always be paramount.  

And with some handy tips such as these, everything will be absolutely fine!

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