How do we raise children who are comfortable on their own?

Once a week I like to treat myself to a sandwich. It’s a salt beef and dill filling in a white buttered bap, but that’s not important right now. It’s not far to walk to the sandwich shop; out of the office, turn left, cross the road and up to the railway bridge, all in under 3 minutes. But the last time I did the walk, I noticed that every single one of the 7 people I passed had their mobile phone glued to their ear. Now I’m as guilty as anyone and probably more guilty than most for having one eye on my phone at most times as I follow stuff on twitter but this did make me think.

Twenty years ago when I was a student at Lancaster University, if you wanted to go and hang out with a friend, the first port of call was to not bother ringing the communal phone in their hall of residence because i) nobody ever answered it and ii) if they did, they’d often lie about whether who it was you were after was in or not because they thought it was funny. So you were left with a couple of options; stroll over and knock for them, visit the usual haunts (Cartmel bar, the pool/games room), or see if they were logged on to Lubbs, the universities bulletin board system and try to extricate them to come to Cartmel bar or the pool/games room. If they weren’t in, you’d try somebody else, and if they weren’t in, you’d find something to do on your own.

I worry that we’re raising a generation of kids who will never experience being on their own. If every adult I passed was talking to someone, it stands to reason that our kids are going to be doing something either similar or “worse”. I say worse because I think there is an important life skill to be learnt in being happy in your own company. If an individual defines themselves by who they are with, there is a real danger that when they have a falling out with friends, or circumstance change, the effect is going to be much much worse.

This is something I can see the potential for in our kids. Until fairly recently they weren’t particularly happy playing by themselves- they could play individually. things like Playmobil and LEGO but they needed an audience of at least one grown up, as though the thought of an empty room dismayed them. This has improved recently, oddly as the older two have become keener readers, something that needs a bit of peace and quiet to concentrate on.