Ask Kari: How can I encourage better parent supervision of our neighborhood children?

Dear Kari,

I am getting tired of the children in our neighborhood being left unsupervised. Lately, since it is summer and school is out, I noticed that more parents are allowing their children to play outside, which I understand, but some of the kids are too young to be left unsupervised. Sometimes, I see them playing with rocks or other items that they can hurt themselves or others with. Yesterday, I also noticed some kids playing in the street, which is dangerous considering the cars driving cannot always see them. I have tried to politely mention to my neighbors my concerns, but they just shrug off my statements and walk away. I am really worried that a child will be harmed. What do you think I should do to encourage better supervision by the parents in my neighborhood?

Safety Mom

Dear Safety Mom,

While it is normal and appropriate for children to play outside more in the summer (and it’s healthy to do so), it is not safe for young children to do so unsupervised.  Young children under six need help monitoring their decisions such as crossing the street, running after a ball or eating chalk, and would do best with an adult at all times. Your desire to keep children safe comes from a good place, but unfortunately you cannot police the world around you. It would be exhausting even to attempt. Since your efforts to convince your neighbors to participate more in keeping their children safe is not working, I suggest you wish them all well, and focus on your own daily life. If you see a truly dangerous situation (a child left outside for hours, a child un-kept/unfed), call the police and report it.  I know it is hard to let others make poor decisions, but we as society allow parents to parent in their own style until they cross the line of safety. You sound like a lovely mom who cares about her own children and others, you just can’t parent other peoples’ children for them. Know that in the end, most children survive their childhood well. Send those good wishes of safety and move on.


As published in the August 2015 issue of Connections.


About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a resident of Issaquah Highlands.

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