Trick or Treating and Learning to Let Go….Just a little
As parents our strongest instincts tell us to protect our children from harm at every possible opportunity. But while this instinct can and should serve us, if let go unchecked it can lead to that dreaded modern phenomenon – helicopter parenting.
Our primary function as parents is actually to make ourselves redundant. If we are doing our jobs properly then, little by little, we should see our children becoming more independent, more confident, and need us less and less.
But the instinct to let our children grow, fall, hurt and learn for themselves does not come easily for all of us, and if we don’t force ourselves to do this, new research shows the results could be highly undesirable.
The first study to define helicopter parenting, and the long-term effects it could have, has found hovered-over children grow up to be dependent, neurotic and less open than children who are left more to their own devices.
Researchers at Keene State College in New Hampshire in the US, found college-aged students who grew up with overprotective 'helicopter' parents tended to be less open to new ideas and actions, as well as more vulnerable, anxious and self-consciousness, compared with kids who had more distant parents.
Encouraging children to explore, conquer, climb, fall, make mistakes, experience rejection, feel jealousy, suffer defeat and master new activities provides the means for tremendous growth and learning both for them and for us as parents.
Trick or Treating at Halloween can offer precisely that opportunity. Allowing children to Trick or Treat with a responsible adult observing from a distance, can be an ideal way of encouraging children to venture into the world and interact with it in an independent way. When they approach the house the child will need to problem solve firstly the issue of getting the home owners attention! Finding the door bell, ringing it, and introducing themselves with the easy pre-scripted “Trick or Treat” can help children feel instantly self confident. Receiving a small treat for their efforts can be just the encouragement they need to be braver, louder and more self assured next time.
But not every house will be prepared for Trick or Treating, and occasionally your child will be told, “Sorry, I have nothing for you”. While this may leave your heart strings tearing a little bit as you watch the disappointment on your child’s face, try to remember this is a perfect opportunity for your child to learn to accept rejection with grace. Encouraging them to have another pre-scripted response such as “That’s okay, thanks anyway and have a great night” will help cement the concept that rejection is a natural part of life, and not the end of the world.
In order to become responsible, confident, assertive, independent adults, children need opportunities to explore their environment both physically and emotionally without continuous interference from their parents. Give them the tools they need and then stand back and watch from a distance. They may fall, they may hurt, but they will also receive some life skills and emotional lessons which are a far more valuable bounty than all of the candy they can collect on October 31st.
Want to know the best places to Trick or Treat this halloween? Check out the TrickorTreatMe map
Staying at home? Register your home to recieve trick or treaters. It's free!