Your kids are the most precious and irreplaceable component of your life. It’s understandable that when they’re out of sight, even somewhere you know and trust, your worry runs rampant. Whether you have actual anxiety issues or simply prefer keeping a close watch on your children, letting go can be tough.
While having a visual on your kids may feel reassuring, have you considered whether it’s in their overall best interest? With the prospect of bodily injury, ill-intentioned people, and school violence ever present, it’s understandable why you’d cling to the reins. But when your children become adults, a longtime lack of independence can be damaging.
That’s why you should encourage independence in your kids, guiding them through risks and how to manage them. Together, you’ll help them build confidence while you’ll gain assurance that they can handle whatever life throws at them.
1. Integrate Safety Precautions Naturally
As a nervous parent, sprinting toward your kiddo as they walk toward danger may be second nature. But the constant hurried rush just when something exciting might happen may be more damaging than helpful. An anxiety-laden childhood can stunt curiosity, imposing fear where only the desire to explore once resided.
Not that your nervousness is entirely unwarranted. There are risks everywhere, but what’s most important is how you and your child manage them. Kids of all ages should be outfitted with the appropriate safety gear, and parents should model the same behavior. Life jackets, seat belts, and helmets are all fair requests that should be expected for the entire family.
A way to communicate with one another is another safety precaution that modern life has made a necessity. If your child is too young for a phone, a smartwatch for kids may be a great option. These devices function as a phone, GPS tracker, and timepiece all in one, yet they lack internet access. Designed for kids, they skip the distracting tech and allow you to stay in touch and be safe while apart.
2. Let Them Show You the Way
A child’s curiosity is a gift that, if it could be bottled, would net millions. Children’s whimsical take on the world can be refreshing, especially when your standard day may be lacking in magic. Follow your child’s lead when it comes to play, exploring your own curiosity through their eyes. Expose them to new things that are age-appropriate so they’re already in a safe space with reasonable risks.
The next time you visit a playground, consider trying something new. Before releasing your child to the space, chat about your visit and where you’ll be if they need you. Stay within eye- and earshot as they explore the new setting. Observe their moves, but resist the urge to shout out caution before it’s necessary. Respond to their call-outs to “Look at me” or “Watch, Mom (or Dad)!” and encourage them to continue.
Join them if invited, but resist the urge to trail them closely. Since you’ve already brought them to a space that makes sense for their age and development, allow wonder to lead. You may be surprised at how daring or careful they are. When it’s time to go, ask them to tell you about their favorite part to connect over the experience.
3. Be Mindful of Your Reactions and Their Impact
It’s only natural for a parent to gasp when their child climbs an especially high rock wall. Or when they grasp and jiggle a railing on a playground. But these instances and your reaction matter, so your mindful management of your natural responses is essential. Whether you’re diagnosed with anxiety or have run-of-the-mill parental fears, it’s important to not pass them on to your kids.
Understanding where your fears stem from, their likelihood, and how you communicate them to your kids is important. If you almost got hit by a car as a child, it’s natural that you’d be skittish around roadways. One way of managing your response and teaching your child is to talk about the situation beforehand.
Discuss what’s going to happen and what situations could arise — a practice that can help you both. Keep things factual, and avoid sharing a scary past at first, as you don’t want to influence their fears. Talk about accident prevention, variables, and what they can do to work through problems.
If they’re going to bike away from home, for example, make sure they’re equipped with safety equipment and instructions. Helmets, hand signals, proper clothing, lights, and a means to communicate can boost confidence and safety for everyone.
Gain Confidence and Trust Alongside Your Child
Letting go is one of the hardest things you’ll do as a parent. And one day, even the parents and children with the closest relationships will drift apart as the latter reach adulthood. However, this growth and expansion doesn’t mean your worries will end. In fact, your kids’ leap into adulthood can be one of the scariest yet!
However, if you’ve intentionally given them space to explore, make mistakes, and sample risk, your children have an advantage. Because you’ve made risk something that can be managed, you’ve set them up for success. And you can be confident knowing they’ll be able to handle anything life has in store.