If you feel like the world is scarier today than when you were a kid, you're not alone. In a recent survey of American parents, nearly half of respondents said they don’t allow their children to play outside without their supervision due to safety concerns. Reports of abductions, shootings, rapes, and other crimes flood the nightly news and overprotective parenting has become a lifestyle for many families. And while the world is dangerous, overprotecting your children can be just as detrimental to them in the long run as not protecting them enough. For example, if you’re always watching your kids on the playground and warning them to be careful every time something looks unsafe to you, they’ll learn to trust your observations over their own instincts. Or if you’re always intervening in their social situations, such as a disagreement with another child, they’ll never learn how to negotiate difficult social interactions without help. Children need to learn to solve their own problems, negotiate the social world of other kids, and regulate their own actions without adult interference.
The goal is to parent responsibly while respecting your children’s personal privacy and building mutual trust. But how do you find the balance between freedom and protection when it comes to your kids? And how much is too much snooping? The answer to those questions depends largely on your relationship with your children and the quality of your communication, as well as other factors such as history, maturity, and trust. Age is also a big factor. What applied in elementary school doesn’t apply in high school. And ultimately, all kids are different, as is each family’s culture, expectations, and values. It’s important to consider all the variables as you assess the correct amount of supervision your children require. Consider these practical tips:
- Teach your kids to handle risks appropriately. Give them the skills to handle likely scenarios and teach them what to do in dangerous situations. Then, as they get older, you'll be able to trust their ability to handle risky situations if they should occur.
- Handle privacy with care. The desire for more privacy is a natural part of growing up. At the same time, your children still need your support and interest in them. Trust is the key to finding a balance between their need for privacy and your need to know what’s going on.
- Respect their privacy. Ask yourself what you really need to know in order to establish boundaries. There are some things you must know, such as where your daughter is going on Saturday night and how she’s getting there and back. Who she danced with and what they talked about should be left private between her and her friends. To send the message that your respect your chidlren’s privacy, avoid things like reading diaries, listening in on phone conversations, and calling to check on them too frequently.
- Stay in touch with your kids. They aren’t ready to deal with the adult world. They may make decisions impulsively and not think through the consequences of their behaviors. Your guidance is important. When you have good everyday connections and communication with your children, they’re more likely to share details of their lives with you. They ‘re also less likely to engage in underage drinking and drug use and are less likely to be depressed, while being more likely to perform well in school and to have higher self-esteem.
Protecting our children from every possible harm is a fundamental parental urge. But they need to develop skills to successfully navigate this chaotic world and to be able to recognize potentially dangerous situations. Having open and honest communication with your kids is the best gift you can give them. Please visit our Education Center for helpful resources about how to enhance your communication with your children.
Join RAACE by becoming a RAACE Fan and/or subscribing to our monthly newsletter and inviting those within your child's circle of trust to join in the fight against and prevention of child sexual abuse! Visit RAACE.org today or call 1.800.755.KIDS.