Empower Your Kids (& Yourself) to Enjoy a Carefree Summer


by: Kathleen O’Hagan

If you’re like me (and most millennials), you likely have a penchant for all things nostalgic. From binge watching Stranger Things, to purchasing vintage toys for your little ones (Fisher Price Retro Telephone, anyone?), to counting down the days ‘til your kid is old enough to watch Back to the Future, there’s something magical about the carefree – technology-free – childhoods we remember.

Free. Now there’s a word that brings back memories of summers past. Who’s with me?

Free to roam the neighbourhood streets from dawn until dinner.
Free of smart phones, streaming services, and social media.
Free of speeding cars outside our doorways and online predators just outside our reach.
Free from a plethora of parenting advice – and the inevitable judgement – that makes us feel like we’re getting it all wrong.

And while I may be guilty of idealizing the summers of my childhood – I mean, it was also a time when we were free not to wear bike helmets. And smoke-free wasn’t a thing yet! – we were most certainly free from all of that worry parents today are racked with.

If you’re yearning to let your child experience the carefree childhood you remember, read on! We’ve got some age-appropriate tips to help you achieve it.

Babies & Toddlers

Probably one of the best ways to give your wee ones a bit more freedom is by empowering yourself with the skills you need to help them in the event of an emergency. (And a hack or two doesn’t hurt either – see #2 if you’ve got yourself a runner.)

1. Get (re)certified

One of the best things I did when my son was still a baby was to get re-certified in CPR and First Aid. While I had taken a course decades prior as a teenager, I realized just how much I needed the refresher after attending the first class. Knowing how to help my baby if he choked while starting solids, and learning how to literally breathe life back into my toddler if he ever fell into a pool or lake gave me the confidence to allow him to be a little more adventurous. I’m certain that’s a big reason why I was brave enough to try baby-led weaning and why a visit to the family cottage each summer became tradition.

Did you know? Members of Serenia Life can get reimbursed up to $50 for completing an accredited CPR or First Aid course! Learn more about our CPR/First Aid Benefit, and apply today!

2. Keep them close

Got yourself a runner? If, like my son, your child went straight from crawling to sprinting, you may want to consider one of those adorable little backpacks with – yes – a leash attached. Especially if you’re going to play tourist in a big city where you’re concerned your little sprinter may run off and get lost among the crowd. This may seem counter-intuitive if you’re trying to give your toddler more freedom, but in my case, my little runner pretty much refused to hold hands with us when we were out, so using this ‘hack’ to keep him close gave him the feeling of independence and allowed us to enjoy many adventures without the added worry. Yup, I finally gave in and got my three-year-old a “leash” when we went to New York for the first time. To this day, I think it’s still one of the five best purchases I ever made as a parent!

3. Slow down

Speaking of running toddlers (and kids), it doesn’t hurt to get yourself one of these awesome “slow down” signs for your lawn. I don’t know about you, but I’m always surprised at how quickly cars will speed through neighbourhoods these days – so let’s sprinkle these signs across our communities to send a message, loud and clear.

Slow Down sign in front yard

Pro Tip! Serenia Life members will be able to get these for free very soon – simply sign up for email communications to be the first to know when they’re available!

School-Aged Children

At this age, it’s all about coming up with a plan – and involving your children in it. As long as you’re all on the same page, you’ll feel a lot better letting them take those baby steps towards more independence.

1. Let them do it by themselves.

Whether teaching them how to make their own breakfast, giving them the artistic freedom to choose their own outfit, or allowing them the discomfort of learning to tie their shoes (we can’t buy Velcro forever!), give them the power to do things on their own. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable knowing little Johnny won’t starve if you take a longer shower than usual, and he’ll gain confidence knowing he can pour his own cereal like a big boy.

2. Let them stray a little farther

If you are lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood where there are other children around, you may be able to summon your inner 80s parent by reminding yourself there is safety in numbers. So get to know other families, plan playdates, and eventually give them the freedom to play with their friends on their own. That’s right, now that your child is mature enough to understand the concept of stranger danger, bike safety, and actually stopping at stop signs, you may want to give them age-appropriate missions that they can complete by themselves or with friends – like walking to a buddy’s house down the road or heading to the green space one street over. The more practice they have at journeying independently, the more confident you will both be to go a little farther next time.

Pro Tip! If you’re a dog owner, have them bring their canine companion along for the walk for an added boost of confidence.

3. Let them stay home alone

If your child is nearing the age that your parents left you home alone for the first time – but you aren’t sure they’re ready just yet – your local community centre or sports complex may offer something like this Home Alone course, which helps kids (aged 10-12) gain the skills and the confidence to be on their own for a few hours without you. Have a pet? Just knowing that their best buddy is at home with them may give them the added confidence to try a bit of alone time.

Teens (& Pre-Teens)

With this age group, I can only imagine it comes down to building trust. On both sides. How do you do that? By providing them with the tools, info, and space they need to make smart decisions – and then taking step back to say “you’ve got this!”

1. Don’t flip out about phones

As much as I want to keep technology out of this, we live in a different time. Most of us don’t have home phone lines anymore – and pay phones are few and far between – so you may want to give your teen an “old-fashioned” flip phone that they can use in case of emergency. No internet access, no social media, just the numbers to dial in case they have a problem and need to get in touch with you. And since we’re talking technology, there are a number of other wearable devices that will allow you to track your teen’s whereabouts – this could be a great way to gain and build trust.

Pro tip! My kid isn’t a teen yet, but I recall reading this somewhere and I think it’s brilliant: Have a code word that they know they can text to you if they are no longer having fun or feel unsafe. When you receive that text, you call them right away to let them know that you’ll be picking them up due to a family “emergency.”

2. Give them more responsibility

Enroll your teens (or even pre-teens) in a Babysitter’s course to teach them some life skills and give them a bit of responsibility while they’re at it. The “latchkey kids” generation got a hands-on learning experience that our children never will. Your kids will love the independence that comes with learning these new skills and making some of their own money.

Did you know? Members of Serenia Life can get reimbursed up to $50 for completing an accredited Babysitter’s course! Learn more about our Babysitter’s Benefit, and apply today!

3. Keep their friends close

And finally – if you want your kids to experience the awesome teenage summers you remember – ahem, actually hanging out with friends in person – consider taking on the role of the “cool parent” so that your kids and their friends want to spend time at your place. Make sure they feel welcome, but also make sure they’re clear on your house rules. Then leave them to it. Creating an atmosphere where they feel like you trust them is one of the quickest and easiest ways to join the Cool Parents Club. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have some delicious snacks on hand too – which is also a sneaky way to check in on them later.

Well, there you have it. While our kids are never going to know what it’s like to have carefree summers a la Goonies or ET, we can still try to give them as much of that freedom (and responsibility) as possible – by doing what we can to empower our kids (and ourselves) to safely navigate today’s modern world.


Kathleen O’Hagan is the Digital Content Strategist & Writer at Serenia Life. She is married with one kid and two cats, and enjoys travel, discovering new restaurants, and idealizing life in the 80s and 90s. (Yes, she bought life insurance for her son – it’s an investment in his future! And yes, her pets are in her will.)