There is an awareness of increasing levels of anxiety amongst children, and together with this less resilience. Is it possible that as parents our concerns about dangers and our desire to want to protect our children from risk is actually increasing stress and decreasing resilience? Michael Ungar’s article (he’s a professor of Social Work, director of a Resilience research centre and the author of “Too safe for their own good: how risk and responsibility help teens thrive”) provides a useful perspective as he considers what he calls the “risk taker’s advantage.”
Are Today's Parents Too Overprotective?
There’s now consensus among social scientists that children across the United States, Canada, Australia, England, and other high-income countries have never been safer. Even the respected epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta recently published a report that showed that the real risks to our children aren’t abductions by strangers or being murdered, but much more commonplace problems like bullying and obesity.
In my experience, however, no amount of statistical reporting gets parents to stop hovering over their children. Regardless of whether the parent is seeing me clinically or we’re sharing a burger on my back deck, statistics do not change behavior. The patterns are too enmeshed—and worse, reinforced by neighbors (who criticize parents for letting 8-year-olds walk to school alone), educators (who’ve forbidden failure in the classrooms and sanitized playgrounds), and Fox News anchors (who sensationalize every child abduction, no matter where it’s taken place).
This new normal is a growing pattern of overprotection that I’ve seen emerging as one of the thorniest clinical issues for therapists because it can look so reasonable. If we therapists have children too (I have two older teens), we may find ourselves empathizing and afraid to admit that we’re just as crazy when it comes to our own kids. Statistics be damned! We’re not going to let anything bad happen to our child.
To read the remainder of this article, please proceed to the Psychotherapy Networker website here.