Would you like to know one of my biggest struggles as a parent? Here it is.
When I sense a roadblock ahead for my child, my default reaction is to start constructing a detour. Without even realizing it, I begin to figure out how my child can best navigate the situation to better their chance of success.
The problem with this approach is that eventually, I’d like these precious humans to live outside of this bubble of protection I’ve created and I’m learning that all this helping
I know I’m not alone on this one. In fact, this is something I see over and over again with other moms who have children struggling. We focus way too much time and attention on “protecting” our children by trying to control the world around them. In fact, we become experts in managing our child’s environments, making ourselves crazy in the process, and it doesn’t work.
1. It is impossible to control the world around our children. There is no way for us to foresee every obstacle ahead and also create a detour plan that will bring them safely to every destination.
2. When we focus on the path instead of our child, what we create is not “safety.” Instead, we shape them into people who grow up believing that someone else is always responsible for where they end up.
But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, the reason this is so difficult is that we really are fighting against a process within ourselves. It’s a biologically driven process that is designed in us and other primates to preserve our species through nurturing and protective behaviors.
It even has a fancy name! Parental Attachment.
It’s part of our creation and when we look at it by itself we can see its purpose, right?
But the question is…How do we reconcile this part of us that is biologically driven to protect our children WITH the knowledge that our job is also to teach them the skills they need to protect themselves?
Here are the three steps I’ve recently discovered that are helping me stop “helping”:
1. Recognizing I’m reacting. I’ve learned that my body will often feel a sense of an urgency in certain situations and will want to take protective action in order to feel relief. Losing my sense of peace is my biggest cue that I’m caught up in a reaction.
2. Slow down. When I start to feel anxious, afraid, or worried, I take that as a cue that I need to slow down. My breath and my body. This can look like going for a drive and listening to music, sitting outside and taking deep breaths, going for a walk, or, my favorite, listening to a comedy skit. Anything that creates a little emotional separation between me and what I’m reacting to.
3. Revisit with reason and logic. When I’m in a calm state, I sit down and ask myself these questions:
What is the problem?
What am I afraid this problem will lead to?
What is the life lesson I hope my child learns from this problem?
Honestly reflect on what my responsibility in the situation is? What my child’s responsibility is? What belongs to God?
How will staying in my lane and not rescuing better equip my child?
Try it out next time you feel that urge to “help,” and let me know what you think.