Over Protection of Children Can Lead to some Serious Consequences
Fear or Freedom
As parents we do all that we can to protect our children from harm but are we doing too much?
The term 'helicopter parents' has been coined to imply parents that hover over their children closely supervising and watching their every move instead of allowing the learning of independence.
In a world where child pornography is rife and stories of abuse and abduction and assault are on almost every page of a newspaper and heard on round the clock news broadcasts, fear grows in the heart of parents and kids may never know the freedom that was had growing up when the lazy days of summer holidays meant that they could wander freely and explore the local neighborhood, sometimes riding their bikes kilometre's to play with friends.
So how then do parents allow their kids experiences that involve risk and ensure not only the physical safety of their children but their emotional safety as well without causing stress about the world we live in and allowing their rightful passageway through life independently.
How do we know that our efforts to ensure that our children are safe and secure might just have gone too far and is meeting our own need and not our children's.
Without doubt we have to work harder to get the balance right but It is possible to allow children to grow and develop taking the necessary risks that will ensure that they are capable to handle their future. Loving parents are often overprotecting thinking that they are doing the right thing when in fact it sends a message to children that the world around them is not a safe place and can make their child fearful of life and all of it's possibilities that it offers and can set up a pattern of avoidance behaviors and or create unnecessary anxiety.
There is much thought in the fields of counseling and psychology that preventing normal childhood risk can causing serious harm in many ways including some of the following:
- Higher stress and anxiety levels in children - therapists working with children and adolescents have experienced higher levels of anxiety and depression in young people in recent years and some are putting it down to tight parental control and a lack of independence increasing stress levels.
- Lack of necessary life skills - If you think about it if a child is driven to school but lives within walking distance or where they can catch public transport, and are never given the opportunity to do so how are they to learn to become independent and to do it themselves.
- Impacts self esteem - a child who is made to feel that they are not capable of managing life situations on their own can develop low self worth.
So what can loving, caring parents do to help their children to increase self confidence and decrease stress as they go through life?
Some of the following suggestions might help:
- Children need to experience manageable risks according to age .... for example we wouldn't allow a toddler to play by himself on playground equipment; or allow a five year old to watch an M rated movie or allow them to cross a busy road on their own; just as it would be foolish to allow a ten year old to get behind the wheel of a car. Risks need to be considered according to age and ability and parents need to make the choice according to factors that impact on mental and physical health and well being and safety. And choices will vary just as family rules and values vary and what's right and acceptable to one family may not be to another.
- Educate your children as early as possible about 'Stranger danger' and what to do if they find themselves in a difficult situation. Make sure they know absolutely that their body is there's and no one has the right to touch it without their permission; talk to them about what to do if someone they don't know approaches them; help them memorize your phone number and local police or kid's helpline or trusted friend or families number so that if necessary and they are scared or worried when separate from you they can make immediate contact.
- Examine your reasons for saying no to normal childhood risks. Ask yourself if your thoughts are rational. Are your fears for your child's safety grounded in your own childhood experiences, for example do you say no to climbing trees because you have a fear of heights yourself.
- Teach your child how to do things well in advance such as crossing a road, using a kitchen knife or lighting a campfire safely. Prepare them for travel alone by traveling with them on the train or bus into or around the city so they know which platform or station to get off and on and how to buy tickets.
- And lastly don't be afraid to embrace life and take risks yourself, the world can be a scary place but it's not as scary as we sometimes imagine it to be.
Examine your own reasons for saying no to normal childhood risks— M Carter