How to Avoid Becoming an Overprotective Parent
Separating legitimate concerns from neurotic overprotection
By Wendy Mogel
Of course, there are aspects of modern life that parents are justified in worrying about. Among the families I work with, the fears center around the big three: crime, safety, and the media (TV; music, film, and the Internet). These worries stand out in bold relief against the rosy memories of their own childhoods. Robin, a client in her late forties, waxed nostalgic one day:
"It's a shame our kids can't live the way we did. The summer I was seven, I had an adventure a day. I rode my bike everywhere. Marcia, Susan, and I had our club meetings in a vacant lot littered with broken glass. I don't remember anyone ever getting cut. I do remember teaching my four-year-old sister how to get across a stream by walking on logs and rocks. That summer we sold our homemade paste door-to-door. When it got dark, one of my parents would call out from the front door for us to come home. Our safety in the neighborhood was a given.
Things are so different now! There are so many problems to be fearful of. When I found out that there was a registry of convicted child molesters by zip code, I checked out our neighborhood and found out that there were fourteen! We have since moved to a neighborhood with six."
You no doubt have your own enchanted-summer memories. You, too, probably wish your kids could experience some of the intense joy and freedom you did the summer you were seven. If so, consider the possibility that your overprotection, as much as the real world, is clouding your children's summers. While there are dangers, bad influences, and risks you must protect them from, you should think very carefully about how much protection they actually need.
Excerpted with permission from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Scribner).