How over-parenting affects your child’s mental health?

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Over-parenting refers to a style of parenting where parents are overinvolved in their child’s life. They are constantly hovering around the child to ensure that the child makes the right decisions and is protected from any physical or emotional discomfort. These parents do their best to ensure that their child does not ever have to experience unhappiness, pain, disappointments, rejection or failure. Even though these parents do this out of their desire to protect the child from any harm, their over-involvement has serious mental health related consequences for the child.

A child who is not allowed to make mistakes will also not learn the lessons that our mistakes teach us. A child who is not allowed to fall does not learn how to get up and carry on. He also cannot learn what made him fall and how to tackle those obstacles in future. He will always need his parents to make his decisions for him.

Children of over-protective parents may have low self-esteem and lack resilience. Being constantly protected by parents makes children feel that they are not good enough to manage life themselves. Their self-esteem depends on approval from parents or from other people. Resilience or the ability to bounce back from setbacks develops when children learn from their mistakes and failures. Overprotective parents do not let their children have the opportunity to develop resilience and problem solving skills.

It has been found that children with overprotective parents are likely to have poor coping skills and higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression. These children grow up to become adults who are usually dissatisfied with life and have unrealistic expectations from people around them.

Many parents are not able to understand that they are being over-protective. Being actively involved in the child’s life is good for the child’s development, but a very thin line divides the actively involved parent from the overinvolved parent. With most people now choosing to have only one child, parents have more time and attention to focus on the wellbeing of the child. Parents usually become over-protective to manage their own anxiety as they cannot bear seeing their child make mistakes or fail. It is necessary for us to ask ourselves if we are over-involved in the child’s life. We are not doing any good to the child by offering to do his homework so that he is not scolded by the teacher the next day. What we need to offer is support, guidance and encouragement to the child to independently interact with the world and learn from the new experiences.

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If you feel you may need help of a parenting counsellor, please seek help.

Dr. Preeti Parakh
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