Los Angeles Times

Fearful for ‘free range’ kids

- Email questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@ amydickins­on.com.

Dear Amy: My brother has two daughters, ages 4 and 6.

Pretty much ever since the girls could walk, he and his wife have given them free range at family events and parties, where they are allowed to go off by themselves for an hour or so.

The kids are very active and don’t sit still for more than a couple of minutes at a time. They will disappear upstairs, or go outside with other kids.

To me, this isn’t safe. I’d be worried they could fall or have an accident.

During Thanksgivi­ng, my 4-year-old niece was running on a deck near a pond by herself. Her parents were inside socializin­g.

To child-free me, this is nuts! Frankly, I think my brother and his wife are just lazy parents at times and let the kids do what they want.

Should I say something? What’s your opinion of this parenting style?


Dear Anonymous: Even fairly strict and more attentive parents tend to let their kids “free range” at family events, where there are lots of other adults and often older children around.

This definitely carries risks, because parents sometimes “check out,” or they assume that other adults have an eye on their children when they don’t.

Unless you have spent time with this family in their home, accompanyi­ng them and their children through a fairly “normal” day, then you don’t really know what kind of parents they are.

Overall, I think “free range” parenting is great — and letting children explore and try new things on their own helps them to develop judgment, self-confidence and resilience.

Back to family events. If there is a deck with a loose railing; a pool, pond or creek; a busy road; or other obvious hazards, an adult should be assigned (or assign themselves) to loosely supervise the kids. This might be a good job for you.

Dear Amy: My husband and I recently adopted a sweet baby boy.

We started as foster parents, with parental reunificat­ion the goal. The parents were not able to satisfy the requiremen­ts of the social agencies involved, and none of his other relatives were able to adopt him.

Due to our age (in our 60s), we were doubtful the judge would grant our request to adopt our son, but we have since learned that there are grandparen­ts and even great-grandparen­ts adopting children.

The judge recognized the bond we all had and allowed us to adopt this dear baby.

My question is this: When we are out in public, people inevitably ask, “Grandson?”

When we say “parents,” they’re understand­ably shocked. Should we just ignore the incredulou­s looks or say, “Adoptive parents”?

It is very important to us that this baby boy does not feel any less than our own biological child.

Older, Wiser, Happier

Dear Happier: Almost 3 million American grandparen­ts have full responsibi­lity for raising grandchild­ren; countless other elders provide part-time childcare.

While your son is young you might say, “We’re parents! The adoption came through last year.” When he is older and aware of the question, respond brightly, “We’re his proud parents!”

Include your son in his adoption story starting now. He’s likely to encounter this question often. Even when it’s annoying, I hope you’ll always lead with your joy.

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