In today's helicopter-mommy world, we may be harming our kids more than we know.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: When I was in sixth grade, my BFF and I would routinely board a city bus, ride a few stops to the downtown Woolworth's department store and buy ourselves a malted milk in the cafeteria. After browsing the retail aisles, dreaming about the day we could get a part-time job and actually buy some cool stuff, we'd ride the bus home in time to help Mom with dinner. We didn't carry a cell phone. We knew to sit up front near the driver in case we had any questions. I don't remember feeling particularly independent. We just felt like every other sixth grader.
Fast-forward to today. This past Christmas, my sixth grader wanted to go shopping for a Christmas present for her dear mother without Mom's presence spoiling the surprise. Since times are a little different these days and kids are less free-range, I came up with an idea that I felt was a safer version of my sixth-grade experience: I proposed to drive my daughter and a friend to an indoor mall. I would also do some shopping in the same mall, though we would separate for about an hour, with each of us carrying cell phones in case there were any problems. I proposed this plan to about a half-dozen mothers in an attempt to book a playdate. Their responses shocked me. You would have thought I was asking if the girls could be dropped off to backpack in Cambodian sex-slave country. Every mother turned me down.
Granted, today we live in a different time. It may one day be called the media-fear-frenzy era, because if you pay attention to the likes of CNN's Nancy Grace, you'd think crimes against children were commonplace. In fact -- according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire -- since 1990, crimes against children and teens have decreased dramatically. Aggravated assault is down 69 percent, and sexual abuse is down by 53 percent. So, statistically speaking, my bus ride in the 1970s was far more dangerous than a similar one today.
That's one of the points made by authors Joseph Allen, Ph.D., and Claudia Worrell Allen, Ph.D., in their book, "Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old." In the book, the researchers suggest that 25 is the new 15, and that parents disable teens and hurt their young-adult lives by stunting emotional growth. Overprotecting adolescents and catering to their needs sends the message that they are incompetent to go out in life alone. Thus, we have the crazy world where kids are moving back in with parents after college.
Some tips that the Doctors Allen suggest to help your child grow include:
• Turn your "consumer kid" into a contributor through the right kind of employment or volunteer activity.
• Feed them with fair feedback. Shielding them from criticism -- constructive or otherwise -- will only leave them unequipped to deal with it when they get to the "real world."
• Provide adult connections. They might deny it, but teens need to interact with adults (including parents) on a more mature level -- and this interaction will help them blossom.
• Stretch the teen envelope. Do fewer things for teens that they can do for themselves, and give them tasks just beyond their current level of competence and comfort.
Today's teens are starved for the lost fundamentals they need to really grow -- adult connections and the adult rewards of autonomy, competence and mastery. Restoring these will help them unlearn their adolescent helplessness and grow into adults who can make you -- and themselves -- proud!
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and her area of interest is Attachment Theory -- a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the Calif. Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental-health concerns, including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|