Saying “NO!” or letting go; when to set limits

When does good parenting turn into over-protection? What is neglectful parenting?  What’s so bad about being a “helicopter parent” (ready to swoop in to rescue at any sign of trouble)?

These questions are important to most parents, but become especially meaningful after a child has had trauma or illness.  I see this in my practice frequently, and try to help parents determine how their actions and attitude can best help in their child’s recovery.

It is important to know that feeling vulnerable is hard, uncomfortable and even threatening to many children.  Teens especially hate feeling like a victim or feeling that others see them as less than competent. That’s one reason why the experience of trauma at this age is so difficult to manage.

But kids and teens count on the adults in their life to help them manage — they just don’t want to make this dependence obvious!

What is best for a parent to do, then? There is no easy “one size fits all” answer. Being aware of a young person’s developmental stage helps the adults in his or her life shape strategy for assistance. Often the best answer is to try to walk the thin and often rambling line between helping too much (and eroding self-confidence) and helping too little (leading to a feeling of loneliness and abandonment.) Frequent re-evaluation and good communication helps!

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