When it comes to protecting our children from emotional situations we could generalize that there are three levels of protection. “Under protection”, “Balanced protection”, and “Over protection”. While we as parents and childcare providers should all obviously aim at providing children with balanced emotional care, knowing how to do this can sometimes be difficult.
To determine just what balanced emotional care is, lets first look at under and over protection so that we can comprehend all three levels.
Under protection is most prevalent in childcare centers and family homes where the adults face a lot of stress. If your child’s teacher has a lot of students, is underpaid, not qualified, or is in an unprofessional childcare environment with little other professional help on hand, then you need to be aware that your child’s physical safety and emotional needs may not be being met.
As parents we also know that when we are under pressure ourselves, from work or life changing circumstances, then this can have an effect on others around us. When we are struggling ourselves, its sometimes hard to help others, even if they are our own children. Under protection therefore requires that something needs to be done.
What then of over protection? We once had a customer who, after joining, told us that under no circumstances was her child to cry, for any reason. This is over protection, and at this level of intensity it may be quite unhealthy for a child. Crying, after all, reduces emotional stress that otherwise has a negative effect on our bodies. Most children (and adults) actually feel less sad after expressing their emotions through tears.
On a less severe level then, can we still be over protective of our children? What if we saw another child reject our child? Can or should we protect them in that situation?
It is often the case that as adults we feel a great amount of empathy for our child in such a situation. The event is almost magnified from our own perspective, and this can sometimes make it personal. However from our own child’s perspective the situation is often not taken emotionally or personally. Kids get over this sort of thing very quickly, often within minutes, which may be much quicker than us as parents. Kids tend to evolve this way, through a mechanism by which they may easily learn, grow and adapt to various life challenges. Generally they can then move on, remaining emotionally free, and are therefore ready to face the next challenge from an unaffected position.
Of course I can only generalize here. What I am not referring to is severe emotional trauma or ongoing situations where a child is being constantly targeted by others. What I am saying is that with the general day to day isolated challenges that a young child faces, this will be true, and the younger your child is the quicker their recovery.
Keep in mind that overprotection can also involve overly helping your child with life skills. Adults must always show and guide young children on how to do things, but we need to make sure that this is not over repetitive. At some stage in the daily routine we need to start standing back and verbally encourage our toddler to do it by themselves. If we are constantly doing the same things for our children we rob them of the opportunity to become independent from us. Children become super independent when they can do things for themselves so mindfully withdrawing your help in a timely way can greatly increase their self confidence especially once they realize that they are capable and able to do things on their own.
Being a parent or caregiver who offers a degree of balanced protection then, we need to walk the middle path. We need an understanding that our kids, especially if they are very young, are resilient to what life throws at them. We need to make sure that as parents we aren’t projecting our own emotional views onto a situation which will otherwise dissolve if left untouched.
Balanced emotional care therefore takes into account that emotional challenge is a healthy part of our children’s growth. It considers the wisdom of stepping back, when we want to step in.
“Balanced emotional care” is something which requires constant adjustment. Nothing is static and each situation is unique. Child care requires empathy, child nurturing, compassion and common sense. In a professional, non-parental care setting, it requires all these things and much more. A great deal of personal experience and qualified education among team staff will go a long way to ensuring that group experiences and challenges bring out the very best in your child.