Helping Young Children Learn to be Independent

Parents Are Children’s Safety Net

When it comes to children’s early learning and development, parents are not just children’s first teachers, they are also their safety net.

helping children to be independent
photo by Tarrell Florent

A friend of ours posted two amazing pictures on Facebook. A hummingbird had built a nest in the family basketball net. Not on the rim which is pretty firm and at least as wide as a finger, but on a bit of the string, which sways in the wind and is quite narrow. As I looked at the photos, I thought the nest looked dangerously vulnerable and that was no safety net. (pardon the pun☺)

Certainly the family won’t be playing any basketball until the egg in it hatches. In a way, the bird has just added some pretty big protectors. There will be an entire household of people watching over that nest everyday, waiting for the egg to hatch, then for the baby bird to grow, and finally to fly away. Just like our kids.

helping children to be independent
photo by Tarrell Florent

For all kids, parents are the safety net. Not only are children dependent on parents for physical needs, but for emotional and social ones too. Going off to daycare, preschool, and kindergarten are really children’s first experiences in leaving the nest and flying on their own. For some children, this is the start of an exciting adventure and they can hardly wait. For others, just the idea of it causes deep stress and anxiety. There are all the reactions in between as well.

For moderate separation anxiety, practice will help and you can gradually ease to longer and longer bits of time. A few short playdates is a place to start. Some community programs such as swimming, arts and crafts, dance, gymnastics or skating, have unfamiliar adults in charge of the group. Even if parents are watching, to a child it can feel like being on one’s own. There may be playschool and  preschool programs offered in your area where kids can go by themselves. Libraries and bookstores will have children’s stories that you can read at home and use to talk together. Learning to be independent is part of healthy emotional and social development and helps later on for kindergarten readiness.

For a play-of-the-day, are there some small ways that your child can practice a bit of “leaving the nest?”

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