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‘Let Them Be Kids!’ Is ‘Free-Range’ Parenting the Key To Healthier, Happier Children?

Now more than ever, children are cooped up indoors and monitored 24/7. But how can they build confidence and social skills if adults never let them out of their sight?

She describes herself as having been a “fairly cautious” parent before the pandemic, but Shannon now worries about her children’s safety more than ever. “The pandemic has made me more paranoid and fearful of other people,” she says. She has two sons, aged seven and four, and she’s anxious about them falling ill “because they are too young to get vaccinated”. When her elder son’s school reopened last year, she kept him at home. “We don’t go inside other people’s houses, and, if we have play dates, we do them outside,” she says. As a hospital chaplain in Indiana, Shannon has seen people dying of Covid, so her fear is understandable.

There have been benefits – her sons are closer than ever – but she acknowledges the downsides. “That social aspect of their development is something I’m definitely worried about. There’s a part of me that’s like: ‘Let them be kids,’ and there’s a part of me that’s like: ‘I need to keep them safe.’”