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Overprotection and children

Many mothers and fathers go to great lengths to protect their children from all the bad things in the world, almost putting them inside a glass jar, however this behaviour can jeopardise children in the long run rather than helping them. Psychologist Nora Suarez Kremer explains why.

How should parents avoid overprotecting?

Parents should first of all abandon the idea that they can do everything because in order for children to grow and develop psychologically, it is healthy to let them make mistakes and confront their own problems, while at the same time remaining confident that their parents are there to help them. We should accept that children experience being frustrated and at the same time help them to build a positive image of themselves. Parents should establish a balance between protecting and maintaining their distance so that children may feel confident with their own choices in difficult situations. It is up to the parents to pay attention to their child’s fears, to make them know that they are being heard or understood and before intervening in a particular situation to help their child, ask them how they would resolve the situation themselves.

Why do some parents protect one child more and other children less?

Children should be protected in the same manner, however, parents often protect one child more than another due to the weakness in which the former appears to have. Instinctively we understand that this child needs more protection, nevertheless we should not treat them differently or protect them more because of it. Parents should simply support and motivate the child, in order to build their confidence and therefore be able to confront their different challenges.

Is an only child (or first child) the most overprotected?

Not all children or first children are overprotected. This mainly depends on how the parents’ childhoods were and how confident they are about their own lives. The more insecure the parents are, the more fear they can pass onto their own children.

How can parents realise that they are overprotecting their children?

While helping a child with their homework and doing it for them, or when they have been invited to go to their friend’s house and they are indecisive of whether to go or not and we decide for them; these are two clear examples which demonstrates overprotection. Children go to school and thus are obliged to complete their homework themselves. In the friend example, though parents can decide children cannot go to a friend’s house due aparant danger, it is the child who should decide whether they want to go or not. Whichever the situation may be, parents must be aware that they have a valid reason for each no they impose on their children and that it is not a mere reflextion of the parents’ own fears. All in all, the parents’ maturity should first of all be analysed when dealing with overprotection.

What are the future consequences of overprotection for children?

As a result of overprotection children often obtain tempermental characteristics, which persist throughout their adult life. A child which is being overprotected by not confronting any level of frustration or negative experiences may very well suffer a great deal, emotionally, later on in life. These are children who are insecure, dependant and prone to depression and manipulation. They cannot tolerate frustration, they have difficulty with decison-making and they do not have the mental capacity to admit their mistakes and bear responsibility for their own actions. They may have problems with building any kind of relationship and also difficulty retaining self-esteem.

How can we make children feel safe in difficult or traumatic situtations without crossing the boundary into overprotection?

Parents must support their children, inspire them to have strength and a positive atitude: “ you can overcome this situation because you are strong”, “You need to resolve this situation, but if you need me I am here to help you”. It is very important that the children feels like they resolved the situation by themselves.

Psychologist Nora Alejandra Suarez Kremer holds a degree in psychology from the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina).

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