My best friend died walking to school. It's hard not to be a helicopter parent

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock 

When I was in primary school my best mate died while walking to school and it's forever changed me.

Now as a parent, I'm acutely aware of how much his death has impacted on me.

My kids are 11, 10 and eight-years-old, and it's time for them to gain independence, but I've been struggling to let them go.

Every time they cross a road or race ahead to the lights, I feel extremely nervous.

And while other kids walk home from school and ride their bikes to the shops alone, mine have not been allowed the same freedom, but things are slowly changing.

I am rightly allowed to feel anxious. I've lived through every parent's worst nightmare, but it's time my kids start learning how to navigate the world without me. And I'm going to let them, although it scares me greatly.

Here are five things I've been doing to loosen the reigns.

1. Home alone

It's not for long periods, and often the youngest kid comes with me, but it's becoming more regular in our house for me to pop to the shops while the kids stay home. We text each other updates and there's a few rules in place, like not using the stove or answering the door.

But each time I leave them, they get more and more comfortable without me there, and, let's face it, shopping without kids is a lot quicker.

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2. Drop and run

The kids are now dropped at the school gate or across the road and expected to get to school together without my husband or I, often crossing a busy road and navigating the peak hour traffic. They have to stay together and watch out for each other. It's building confidence, but also making their bond stronger.

3. Little shoppers

I've started regularly taking the kids to the supermarket and tasking them to go inside with a shopping list and my credit card. At the moment there's never more than 10 things on the list, but watching them working together as a team to get all the things on the list, chatting with the shop assistants and getting the job done without fighting is great to see.

I've also started letting them go into the adjacent Big W and look around while I'm grocery shopping, which makes it easier for me and they have fun checking out the toys and books without me annoying them.

4. Phone home

Just this week we gave our eldest child her own phone. It's a cheap one, but will do the job. With it comes extra responsibilities and she is thrilled to finally be able to text her friends.

Up until this moment, communicating using devices with anyone outside of our house was banned, but we decided it was time she had the opportunity. It also means that she can connect with us when she's out of the home with her friends after school.

5. After school fun

Now equipped with her own phone, our eldest will also be given more chances to fly the coop without us. It scares me, but she is a responsible, smart kid and it's her time to break free from us. In one year, she will be in high school (if we lived in Melbourne she'd be starting next year) and she'll be a teenager – so it's time for her to spread her wings.

Some of my fondest memories are the ones I share with old school friends, exploring and growing up without our parents getting in the way. Now, she can begin taking her own adventures.

It's time for her and it's time for me to let go of the past, so she, and my other kids, can start making a lifetime of their own memories. I'll never forget my amazing friend who left this earth way too soon, but I can't let what happened to him stop my girls from growing up.