It is the most natural thing in the world for a parent to want and try to keep his child safe and sound. But do we cross the acceptable healthy limit of protection? We often do. We need to learn how to “balance our focus on safety with the valuable, life-lesson richness of risk-taking” to provide space for our children to grow as confident individuals. The so-called helicopter parenting style that keeps children away from everything that has the potential to cause distress designs adults that are not adequate for the challenges of real life, research shows.
Mindful parenting educator Michelle Gale, M.A., shares a few tip on how to avoid being overprotective and to let go of excessive fear.
- Intentional breathing – focus on your breath in a moment of worry. You need to practice and repeat on a regular basis. This practice can even help you observe whatever you were thinking that triggered a fear or reaction.
- Explore what triggers your helicopter parenting reactions – write the triggers down in a journal. Try to be objective. Like a researcher collecting data. This will help you eventually decode patterns with your kids.
- Practice mindful listening – listen to your child without planning what to say next. Just attune to your child and listen to what he is saying.
Becoming more mindful throughout our days, we naturally become less inclined to the overreaction, less entrapped by fear, and more inclined to let our children learn from their own choices and actions, not from what we tell them to do.
For the next few days, listen to your child without any plan or desire to respond. Just listen. Notice if, as they are speaking, you are already planning what you are going to say next. As soon as you notice yourself doing this, bring yourself mindfully back and attune with them again, listening even more deeply to whatever it is they are sharing with you.
Parents who play games with their kids, challenge them to a race, or simply muck about with rough-and-tumble activities may be helping reduce the chances of them developing anxiety problems. A recent study by Australian and Dutch researchers found that certain behaviours by parents play a role in protecting preschoolers from becoming anxious because they are encouraged to take risks, safely.