These tips will help parents break free from overprotective tendencies.
Children have an uncanny ability to pick up their parents' fears, so if you're a parent who is concerned about being overprotective try to shift your approach. A healthy amount of risk and responsibility is important for children to mature into confident, secure adults.
Take this quiz developed with parenting expert Barbara Coloroso to see where you fit on the protective-parent spectrum.
These tips may help you:
Your Own Fears
- If you feel you may be overprotective, ask yourself what kinds of risk, responsibility and adventure-seeking behaviours you sought when you were a child. Were your parents overprotective too? Were you allowed to do the things you wanted to do?
- Media literacy is important for both kids and parents. Parents should question the messages that create fears in themselves and their kids.
- Look at the big picture. What's the worst that can happen in any given situation? Is fear overshadowing a learning opportunity? Does letting your pre-schooler explore the playground independently outweigh the risk of getting a bump or a skinned knee?
- Learn how to gauge your child's safety on a case-by-case basis. Do not give in to unsubstantiated fears. In any given situation, is there real concern for danger? If not, your own fears may be holding your children back.
Get to Know Your Child's Community
- Consult with other parents who are like-minded when it comes to bringing up their kids. Their feedback can give you perspective when trying to cut through the hysteria of negative messages. If you're still unsure, talk with your child's physician for another point of view.
- Get to know your child's friends and their parents. Spend some time inside the friend's house when you drop your child off, so that you can feel more relaxed about having your child spend time there.
- Get to know your neighbourhood. If you have no real basis for deeming it unsafe, then swallow your fear and let your children out to play.
- If walking to school is a concern, organize groups of kids to walk to school together.
Structure and Freedom
- Trust your children to follow your safety rules and give them freedom according to their age, ability, circumstance and situation.
- Establish boundaries for your kids and communicate clear expectations about their responsibilities and their behaviour. Demonstrate that there are consequences for over-stepping boundaries.
- Give your kids space and an opportunity to express themselves if they're mature enough and when safety isn't a major concern.
- If your child is trying something new, gently guide him or her and gradually fade into the background. Check in occasionally, and learn to supervise from a distance.
- If your child is anxious or fearful, acknowledge that it's natural to have these feelings and help find a way to cope or overcome the fear.
- If your child is injured, help him or her calm down before you address the injury.
- Provide plenty of learning opportunities for problem-solving. If your child is not in any physical danger, give them a chance to figure it out.
- At school and with homework, if mistakes are minor let the teacher correct them. If there are glaring mistakes, point them out but make room for your children to correct themselves.
- Make sure your home is truly safe and that you have established age-appropriate safety rules in your family. Check out Safe Kids Canada's website or call their hotline for further advice: 1-888-Safe-Tips.
- Make sure your children know how to seek help when necessary.
- Teach your children how to dial 9-1-1.
- Have a mock fire drill in your house outlining escape routes and safety rules.
- Assess each situation individually and react accordingly.