Tip #6: Give Your Child Age Appropriate Opportunities for Exploration

I’ve always loved magazine quizzes – anything from “take this quiz to find out if he really likes you” as a pre-teen to “learn which decorating style suits your home” in my housekeeping magazines.  When I was trying to think of an interesting way to present this week’s tip, I decided to design my own little quiz.  If quizzes make you nervous, calm down.  This is a self-graded quiz in which there are no “right” answers.  These questions are designed to help you constructively evaluate the boundaries you set for your child.  I tried to incorporate different age scenarios, so that there is something that applies to everyone’s current stage.

Note: If you’re like my husband and think these types of quizzes are a waste of time, then just skip on down to the conclusion of this post to read my advice on giving children age appropriate opportunities for exploration.

1. When my toddler wants to “help” me in the kitchen…
a. I find something else for him to play with, there are too many dangers he might not see.
b. I open up a cabinet filled with tupperware and muffin tins.  He can crawl around inside and take items out without harming himself.
c. I explain to him what I am doing in the kitchen, and give him little jobs to do, such as sorting large and small spoons.

2. When my 6-year-old daughter is struggling with learning to read…
a. I suggest we wait to work on reading skills until she is older.
b. I enroll her in a braille class even though I know she can see letters.  I think that learning to read in braille could be easier for her.
c. I ask her teacher to give me some suggestions on how to work with her in order to make learning to read a fun and enjoyable experience.

3. When my 9-year-old wants to go ride bikes with neighborhood friends….
a. I suggest they find something fun to do in our backyard.
b. I ask him to stay within 5 blocks of our house, and remind him to be aware of his surroundings.
c. I ask him where they will be going, and suggest making a stop at the nearby bakery to pick up a fresh loaf of bread to go with dinner.

4. When my 12-year-old daughter and I visit the museum downtown, we have to cross a lot of busy unfamiliar streets, which causes me to…
a. I insist on grabbing her hand as we cross streets.  It is way too chaotic not to hold hands crossing the street in this new setting.
b. I talk to her about the new place we’re traveling to, and offer her my arm if she needs a guide in this unfamiliar setting.
c. I remind her to bring her cane, and talk about all the exciting new exhibits at the museum.

5.  My 16-year-old son wants to enroll in drivers education classes.  I know his vision is too limited for safe driving:
a. I tell him I am sorry, but driving is absolutely out of the question.
b. I allow him to enroll in the class to learn the rules of the road, and suggest he talks to the instructor about ways he can participate in the class.
c. I take him to visit the eye doctor to discuss the matter in detail.

Every good quiz should have a bonus question.  Here it is: Have you set boundaries and expectations for your child that mirror those of their sighted peers? I chose an open-ended bonus question rather than multiple choice to encourage you to take the time to examine your current beliefs about your child’s capabilities.

As I stated above, there is no “answer key” for this quiz.  There are all different types of parenting for different types of kids.  If you tended to answer “a” to these questions, you may need to work on more age appropriate responses.  If you chose “b” and “c” for most of your answers, you have an approach that tends to be align with age appropriateness.

When I was growing up, my parents allowed me and Joy to have a lot of freedoms.  They took measures to keep us safe, such as making sure we were riding our bikes with responsible friends around the neighborhood.  Yet they did not coddle us or prevent us from trying many of the activities our peers were participating in.

Now that I am a mom, I understand the strong instinct to keep my children safe.  I also have come to realize that different parents have varying comfort levels when it comes to setting boundaries.  I can see how it could be tempting for parents of blind children to want to set extra limitations in order to protect their children.  But I think it’s important to take a step back and evaluate how these boundaries are affecting your child’s growth.  While trying to “protect” your child, you could be standing in the way of their creativity, ambitions, and independence.  By expanding your child’s ability to explore in age-appropriate ways, you are offering them opportunities to reach their highest potential.

Read more in our series, “Advice for Parenting Visually Impaired Children”.

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