Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.

Independence, Growth, Adulthood

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Aug 26, 2013 8:08 PM

It's normal for a small child to cling to Mommy or Daddy. How long should parents reinforce that dependence? I say, encourage the baby to explore the child-safe room, encourage the toddler to explore the public areas of the house (with supervision), the day care, the social hall, the friends' houses . Encourage the child to explore approved groups, clubs, camps, sports, visits with others withoug hovering. Encourage the teen to drive, to work, to socialize, to participate in activities, even to travel without always being there physically. Let the kid go to college away from home and don't visit constantly. If the young person marries, don't interfere any more than you're invited to do.

The reason I'm harping on independence today is because I've seen so much harm from overprotective parents finding their identity through their children, fearing any harm or error to those children to the point of preventing them from making mistakes from which to learn, paralyzing them forever. Then, when something does go wrong, those parents rush in to control everything, often to "buy" help, enabling captivity and thwarting growth. It's a real job to undo all this damage. I approach the task by accepting the fear, teaching the patient to accept even the worst feelings as okay and not pushing them away or running from them. Gradually exploring new thinking becomes crucial. Learning to take normal risks and assert opinions which differ from those of the parents or other controlling forces, and growing into the real world instead of shrinking away from it converts the child into an adult. It doesn't mean that the full adult doesn't feel like a little kid sometimes. We all do. It means that we help ourselves through the problems and rely on others only as we wish, not as they wish.

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