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Parents, Give Your Children SPACE

Parenting is stressful, not just for the adults but apparently, children are becoming more anxious and see parents concern as contagious.

Take John, for example. His dedicated mother calls him twice a day and texts him during his lunch. Even though he’s married and well into middle-age, his mother worries that he’ll oversleep, under eat and forget to turn off the lights when he leaves the house.

He jokingly told me that he’s overloved and that it’s been a problem all of his life. It seems odd that being loved too much could be a problem, but research is showing parents can love their children into frustration, stress, and anxiety.

These days being a child is hard work. You look to your parents for signals on how things are and what to worry about. A parent’s role in life is navigator. The goal is safe arrival into adulthood. But, there are some parents who need to learn to let their children have space to breathe.

In fact, more children are being diagnosed with anxiety disorders and rather than make the problem better, well-intended moms and dad are heightening fears in their kids. What parents say and do communicate and teach their child to practice the same. So if a parent focuses on worry or a problem, the bigger it gets. And, some problems are best left ignored until the feelings blow over. It’s hard to do, but if you knew that your attention was harming your child, would that make you stop?

Yes, parents, all you helicopter, lawn mower and snow plower parents, too much love is harmful, and it’s time to stop stressing your children out. Apparently, overlove is the new way to ruin a childhood. Your children need SPACE. Yale researchers are trying to extend to adults raising children struggle with anxiety. A study using SPACE vs. cognitive behavior-therapy method was tested to see how children with anxiety fared when parents stopped accommodating their fears.

The giving SPACE vs. a child-based cognitive-behavioral therapy study invited parent participants to give no accommodations for their child’s anxiety and then compared the results to parents who did. SPACE parents didn’t text their kids, call or chat about problems the children faced. Intensive support, therapy or other types of treatments were also withheld.

When the child showed signs of worry, they abstained. Children who received SPACE were observed to have better outcomes than kids whose parents catered to their fears. Parents also reported that they felt less stress and anxiety, too — bottom line. Kids can handle more than society thinks and hopefully this new study can give parents permission to trust their child’s feelings to work themselves out with time.

While it sounds crazy to think that loving parents, parents who genuinely care and voice concern would be causing the opposite effect that they are trying to gain: confidence, but, it been proven that checking in on your child does more harm than good.

Asking too many questions, focusing on an issue, and not allowing a child space to breath gives children the impression that something is wrong, even when it’s not. It communicates to the child that mom or dad are worried, and if they are worried, something really serious must be going on.

A hands-off approach and a reduction in check-in text messages or chats about feelings seemed to improve the way children felt. Kids whose parents remained more interactive throughout the day texting, checking in and calling did not do as well. The more a parent stayed in touch, the more anxious the child felt.  It goes to show that children can be resilient and when parents give them room to learn and grow, it actually instills more confidence rather than insecurity.

About Aria Gmitter

Aria Gmitter writes about parenting and political matters affecting the family.

One comment

  1. The mom in this story needs a hobby. If my son leaves the lights on, his bill will be higher. It’s his wife’s problem, not mine. So is his laundry, his nutrition, etc…… Actually, he and his wife are a team. I don’t need to worry.

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