Sheltering & protecting your child. Does it help them or can it drive their anxiety?
Anxiety is an expected, normal and transient response to a stressful situation. It is an evolutionary hangover and one that has allowed us to be in the world today. But with today’s fast paced lifestyle, social media and our inability to relax, there are more ‘perceived threats’ than ever before, and anxiety is quickly becoming the most common mental health concern in children.
So, what can we do, as parents, to support our kids and help them grow into the competent, independent and confident adults we wish them to be.
One of the biggest difficulties I see in parents is the inability to step back and provide their children with opportunities to learn from anxiety provoking situations. As parents, we are the biggest advocate for our children; we are the voice for them when they find it hard to articulate their own inner thoughts and feelings.
YES - we want to yell at the kid who told our child they don’t want to be her friend anymore; YES - we want to remove the computer when we see our child break down in tears over a hurtful facebook comment.
YES - we want to ask the teacher to give our child an A in maths simply because we know how much effort they put in.
But what if we are stepping in and protecting our children too much? What if, our behaviour is actually feeding their worries and reinforcing their concerns? What if the level of emotional support we are offering is fuelling their anxiety and actually keeping it alive?
We all want our kids to grow up with a sense of independence and competence. By protecting them too much, we are sheltering them from the world and not providing them the opportunity to learn coping skills and develop strategies to help them deal with their anxiety the next time it appears.
We have to help our child understand that the thoughts and feelings associated with anxiety are actually not as threatening as they are perceived to be. We can’t shelter and protect our children from this emotion. We are all anxious at some point in our lives. Children have to grow up with a sense of acceptance, a sense of understanding and a knowing that they themselves can handle this threat; that they, themselves, can cope with this level of distress; and that they themselves, have got this!
Your job, as a parent, is to take a back seat. Your job is to help guide and support them as they experience the realities of the world. Your job is to watch them fall and then praise them for getting right back up on their own!