It’s perfectly normal to be concerned for your child’s safety.
Parents feel the urge to keep their kids protected from any perceived threat that could harm them. However, our best intentions can trick us into going overboard to make sure our children are safe and lead us onto an emotional slippery slope that could actually harm the child.
One of the biggest parenting challenges is how to support your child in a way that helps them feel secure but also helps them build resilience – the ability to “bounce back” when something goes wrong.
With so many terrifying stories in the media, how can we know that the next risk we take won’t be the one we regret?
Protective Bubble: “I seriously need to wrap my kid in bubble wrap.”
Write down a list of daily concerns you have about your child.
Then, write down the things you do each day to address those concerns.
Now, ask yourself – what would happen if I stopped doing these things?
Our own fears can sometimes overwhelm us. A reaction aimed at helping us cope can easily turn into a habit with time, if it has proven successful. We continue to do things to protect ourselves and people we love, even after the perceived threat has passed. Worst-case scenarios linger in our minds long after the “real” threat is gone.
The protective bubbles we create frequently do indeed protect our children from harm. But when well-meaning protection is carried to extremes, our kids are denied the opportunity to develop their own capacity to deal with difficult situations.
This can mean that, when faced with a challenge, they get trapped by that “fixed mindset” persona inside them that gets scared of a failure they may never have even experienced: “I can’t do it! I’m not ready!” Or they may be experiencing Learned Helplessness that prevents them from even knowing where to start when dealing with a problem.
Clearly, we’re not talking about life-threatening situations where they undoubtedly need your support. We’re talking about those situations where, no matter how much you want to be there for them, you need to let them experience the consequences of their decisions.
Let’s say you’ve invited a couple of families to your home on a Saturday evening. While you’re all talking on the deck, you hear noises in the basement. Turns out, kids were teasing your child and calling them rude names. What do you do?
Your child got a bad grade on a test they’d studied for, because the teacher decided to set different types of problems at the very last minute. They feel really disappointed and think that’s unfair because it’ll affect their grade significantly. Do you go talk to that teacher?
Your son’s or daughter’s soccer coach believes in the “tough love” approach, to which the child doesn’t react well. Do you go talk to the coach?
Before you intervene, we’d like you to give yourself a chance to consider the option of your child being able to deal with these situations on their own.
“What if they fail?” “What if they get hurt?” “What if they get embarrassed?”
You might be having these thoughts. And that’s okay.
You want what’s best for your child and you’re concerned.
Still, does that mean you should run to help every time they stumble?
Removing obstacles, keeping the path of life “clean” and “flat” so that a child can safely walk through childhood is one of those solutions that might seem beneficial in the short-term, but is never a sustainable one. Why? The very world that a parent is trying to protect them from, will reach them eventually. And when it does, it’s important they know how to navigate it.
How can we help?
We want to help our kids develop mechanisms to cope with the world inside them and the world around them.
How can we do this?
Help your child understand the reasons behind your worry and suggest ways they could deal with challenging situations they confront. We know that it’s never easy to put that into words – but try anyway!
Teach them and guide them through these experiences rather than “protecting” them from them. Analyze what happened in situations where they felt they were treated unfairly. Brainstorm on different ways they might handle things next time.
Help them discover their strengths and abilities to deal with different challenges.
If they’re discouraged, try to understand what would encourage them.
Lead by example. Show them that all learning starts by making mistakes from which we grow.
Problems are strength-training for our brains. They toughen our mental muscles. You won’t be able to stop every single obstacle from reaching your child. However, you can be there to support your kids as they learn how to fly on their own. You’ll probably be surprised at how well they do and their sense of pride and confidence will grow the more opportunities they have to handle challenges themselves.
One of the most famous writers from my country, Duško Radović, says:
“If you solve all of your children’s problems, the only problem they will have is you.“
Do you agree?
by Ana Jovanovic
Coach for Nobel Coaching