It is a parent’s responsibility to watch over her child and shelter the child from the sometimes cruel world. This is a statement that very few people are likely to dispute. Now there is research on this aspect of parenting and the findings of that research may come as a surprise to many.
The Mayo Clinic just published a report that states sheltering children leads to their experiencing more anxiety when they are older. The study measures childhood avoidance and showed that children with a high level of avoidance showed more anxiety a year later than those with less avoidance. Thus sheltering children may lead to bigger problems in the future.
This does not mean that parents should turn their children loose with no guidance or sheltering. The study found that exposing children to frightening situations slowly and over a period of time reduced both avoidance behavior and anxiety by 50%. This practice seems to give them a tolerance for alarming events so that their anxiety is moderated.
So the key to teaching children to cope with the difficult world is not to shelter them but rather to protect them. It is important to allow a child to have experiences even if they are not good experiences. Parents need to be there to guide them and soften the fall. Parents need to take unpleasant experiences and turn them into learning situations so that they are not negative experiences. One of the hardest things to come to terms with as a parent is that one cannot be there all of the time to protect the child. Knowing this, it is important for parents to educate their children and prepare them to be able to deal with what they encounter, positive or negative, on their own. Children need to be educated so that they can live their lives, not have their parents live it for them.