Do you pride yourself on swooping in and saving your child whenever he gets in a sticky situation that you see is about to go south? Are you 100 percent committed to making sure your child never struggles like you did in life?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might be about to cross the line into some dangerous territory – the overprotective parent syndrome. It’s an easy trap to fall into – you love your child and want to make sure nothing bad happens to them. That’s admirable, to a point. But the real danger comes when you save the day so often your child doesn’t know basic street smarts or how to watch out for themselves.
Here are some ways to raise a child who can handle the world on their own without the constant assist from you.
Teach Them Safety Basics
You won’t feel as worried about your child, which will give you fewer overprotective urges, if you think your child has a firm grasp of safety basics. Give them all the knowledge they need about their surroundings. Cover the dangers inside, such as hot stoves and electrical outlets, and outside, such as looking both ways before crossing the street.
Every child should know these kinds of things, and if you drill in these lessons while they’re young, you’ll have less to worry about. If your child is too young to take in all the wisdom you’re trying to impart, you can take a deep breath. That means it’s time for celebration – you’re still in complete control! You can put up a baby gate around the fireplace and put safety protectors in the outlets. That means less premature gray hairs for you.
And don’t worry about being too overprotective while your child is still a baby – that’s your job, to protect them until they learn to protect themselves.
Discuss Stranger Danger
You don’t want to frighten your child into thinking all strangers are bad. The point of this conversation is to teach them to spot a creeper, not become an introverted agoraphobe.
This conversation doesn’t have to go into all the crazy, scary details of what could happen to a child who wanders off with a stranger. It’s usually sufficient at this age to constantly remind a child that some strangers can be bad. You’ll feel better if you have that conversation with your child. You’ll feel less overprotective if you know they aren’t looking at everyone as if they’ll be best friends for life.
Work on Yourself
Once you’ve done everything you can to prepare your child and you find you’re still worrying, maybe you need to expand your own life and interests a bit. You might be doing your child a favor if you give yourself something else you can turn your focus toward.
Add some exercise into your routine because you’ll find it has a calming effect. When you’re expending all that energy trying to stay fit, you naturally have less time to worry. If you find you’re still frantically obsessing about your child, you might want to add in some meditation time too or play some music that relaxes you.
Befriend a Parent With a Totally Different Style
Is there a kid in your pre-school class who seems fearless? Try to befriend that parent. While you want your child to have a healthy respect for what their capabilities are, it’s not a bad thing to become friends with a rough-and-tumble kid who might get your child to test their limits if you’ve been babying them too long.
Becoming friends with someone who has a different parenting style than you might help you relax a little.
Let Them Make Their Own Fun
If you find yourself always entertaining your child and swooping in the second they announce they’re bored, your child may find it difficult to entertain themselves later in life. Kids are good at making their own fun, and that uninterrupted playtime is great for their imaginations and their problem-solving skills.
But some children aren’t allowed to have that kind of freedom because their parents are too worried about them being bored. So instead, they are often overscheduled, with almost every free hour of their day already accounted for, leaving little time for finding their own fun.
Take a hard look at your child’s schedule, and you might find you should drop a few activities. At the very least, perhaps you need to stop micromanaging the free time they have. Let them enjoy their quiet time, and you could likely benefit from squeezing in a little free time of your own while they are enjoying theirs.
About the Guest Blogger
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. When she’s not spending time with her children, she is often pursuing her favorite hobbies – running, metal detecting and kayaking. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.