It's time to get over "stranger danger."
Imagine that you feed your child a warm breakfast, dress her in a heavy winter coat with boots, hat, and mittens; you pack her lunch and homework in her backpack, and send her off with a kiss on the cheek to walk to school.
It's a scene that is found in thousands of homes across America. Then, out of nowhere, Child Protective Services knocks on your door to investigate if you are a fit parent.
That is basically what happened recently to the Meitiv family from Washington, according to the Washington Post.
According to the article, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are part of a growing number of advocates for "free-range parenting," a movement that encourages a parenting style that raises children free from fear and suffocating control.
The unrelenting messages to parents and children about "stranger danger" and "just say no" have raised awareness and anxiety about the potential dangers that face children today.
Free-range parent advocates point out, however, that the statistics on child endangerment are not any worse today than when today's parents were young. Free-range parents insist that their children deserve to grow up with a sense of innocence, confidence and security that the world is a safe place.
And it was in the spirit of promoting confidence in a safe world that many parents open the door and send their well-fed, properly-dressed and prepared children out to walk to school, the library and the park.
There was no need for CPS
While parents may have dramatically different views on what amount of freedom is safe for children based on factors like personal experiences, crime rates in the community and the readiness of the child, it is strictly un-American to sick Child Protective Services on caring parents who advocate for a child's right to a sense of safety and security in the world, free from anxiety.
Are there other benefits to free-range parenting? In the case of children who walk to school, there are many benefits.
Children whose parents permit them to walk to and from school are likely to benefit from exercise, fresh air, sunshine and opportunity to practice personal responsibility.
More exercise is greatly needed at this time when childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease are at an alarming high. And every Mom knows that all children need to learn more self-responsibility — it's a hallmark of great parenting!
I'm not going to personally chime in on whether the Washington family was right or wrong to send their children out alone. Too many factors go into making such big parenting decisions. (How far were the kids walking? What sort of area were they in? How responsible is the older child?)
What I do know is that most parents do a great job looking out for their children's safety and welfare, and each family prepares to make these hard choices. These great families deserve our praise and support.
I do wish for a Child Protective Services worker to knock on the door of neglectful and abusive parents, a minority, who fail to protect and care for their children.
I just have a hard time imagining how the American dream — picket fence, nice home, station wagon (or SUV), and two children who walk to public school — can rank high enough on anybody's scale to call out Child Protective Services.
For all of you wonderful, caring and committed parents out there, happy parenting and hats off to you! Whether you are a Free Range Parent or a Helicopter Mom, your child is lucky to have you!
Keep up the great work!
Contributed by: Darleen Claire Wodzenski, Parenting Expert & Educator