I raised my first two children in Norway, where kids are widely trusted with everything from knives to boats. My third child was born in the UK. The biggest shock for me, navigating British kindergartens and primary schools, have been the physical restrictions on kids.
There’s a level of protectiveness which costs a lot of effort for the parents, limits the kids’ development and in terms of safety, seems token at best if not outright damaging.
Take climbing trees. An unlucky fall can take months to repair.
But a sedentary life swipes a decade off your life expectancy.
So follow your child’s enthusiasm. If they love climbing trees then don’t block that, find ways to qualify it. Turn their passions into habits. There will be a broken wrist or torn ligament at some point. That risk is dwarfed by coronary heart disease, the single biggest killer in the UK.
For some parents, the skill is to let go after the early years of looking after a toddler. Checking for for dangers in your child’s way becomes engrained. You measure yourself in how comprehensive your protection service is. You’ve fine-tuned your ability to spot tool boxes, hot coffee, kitchen equipment as hazards. If you continue channeling that lively imagination for possible accidents you will restrict how they develop their own judgment, their own skills and their own sense of adventure.
Instead of worrying about rotting branches or crumbling walls or whatever hazard might lead to a fall, I’d be concerned about their lifetime habits. A cosseted child will stay slightly uncoordinated, lacking the self-confidence and the motor skills to use her body fully. That surely is a downwards spiral of passivity.
You don’t hone athleticism only in sports, with familiar degrees of risk, from football (high) to table tennis (low). Young kids can build physical prowess on the walk home from school, when messing about in the garden or while exploring some castle ruins.
Accept there will be a chance of broken finger or a torn ligament in both sports and play. Some of your best instincts, which served your child so well the first years, are quite likely a hindrance as they grow.
We all know the score by now – “Let it go”.