Monday, August 8, 2016

Developing Safe Habits

Growing up is hard.

On me, that is. 

For example, I have been known to exclaim, every six months or so, with teasing exasperation, "will you PLEASE stop growing?" Shoes that fit one day can't even be squeezed into the next. Reagan has the advantage of a full wardrobe at the ready, even if it isn't pristine, but there have been times we've gone to dress up and found that Madison has, literally, not one pair of appropriate shoes that fit, no matter how recently I'd checked. Every time I buy clothes for her, I buy big, hoping to get two seasons, and every time, I'm thwarted.

Then we're constantly entering new seasons of "do I know what I'm doing?" Am I giving them too much responsibility? Too little? Do I expect too much? Not enough?

And then, as the girls grow up, they are growing out and away from us.

Yes, I know they are only six and four. But I want them to be able to handle themselves in the world. If we work on developing safe habits now, they'll already be ingrained when they're older. They'll be comfortable navigating life with safety AND independence.

Right now we're working on developing safe, yet independent, habits in stores. Since we're in Target a lot (yes, I'm a cliche), we've started there. The girls like to get popcorn, so I've taken to giving Madison the cash, sending them to the snack bar while I hover within eyesight, and letting her handle the transaction from ordering to paying. We started slow - I ordered, she handled the money. Then she handled the entire transaction with me standing next to her. We talked about getting attention if necessary, speaking clearly, having manners, accepting change. Then I slowly pulled back to where we are now, a place where I don't even need to approach the snack bar.

In certain stores I let the two of them go to the restroom alone. We've talked about how to behave, how to handle themselves and look out for each other, and what to do if something comes up. I'm always close by, and if they are taking a long time or I feel uneasy, I can check in, but I want them to feel like they can have some independence.

Safety with strangers is another place where I'm making sure that they are growing out safely. I want them to know that making small talk in line is ok. That not everyone is out to get them. But that politeness doesn't mean that you need to make conversation with someone who is making you uncomfortable. There are safe people you can ask for help if you're lost (store employee, mom with kids) but that an adult should never need to ask you for help. (I did a post on this about a year ago, since I have such an outgoing child).

They're learning to be independent, yet safe, at home. We scaffold everything as they build independence. Learning to bathe themselves, take care of their morning and evening hygiene, get food and drink, problem solve, clean up, stay safe both in the house and around cars. Sometimes we have to back up and take some of the responsibility back, but they're learning.

They're learning. We're learning. They're growing. We're growing. We're all developing habits now that will stay as we keep moving forward.

And hopefully, we're all becoming independent while staying safe.
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