Child safety has
changed a lot over the years. In the 1970s, kids were lucky to have a car seat.
These days, they get three: one when they're born, another to grow into and a
third to give them an extra boost when buckling.
injuries aren't the only ones parents worry about these days. It's everything—from
cuts, scrapes and bruises to getting their feelings hurt—and new research says
that this overprotective mindset is giving kids anxiety.
According to a study
published in Evolutionary Psychology, risky play—the kind where someone
actually could get hurt—is good for kids, not bad.
To prove their
theory, Norwegian researchers set out to observe and identify six categories of
Great heights, where children were at risk of falling while climbing, jumping (from still or flexible surfaces), balancing on
high objects and hanging or swinging high off the ground.
High speed, which involved sliding, running, biking, skating or skiing at an uncontrolled pace; risking a possible collision.
Dangerous tools, which could cut or strangle a child, including cutting instruments or ropes.
Dangerous elements, where children could fall into or from something, like a cliff, deep or icy water or fire.
Rough-and-tumble activities, including wrestling, play fighting or fencing with sticks, where one child could harm another.
Disappearance/getting lost, where a child could disappear from the supervision of an adult—while exploring or playing
What they witnessed
was that the fear kids experienced, when faced with danger, not only forced
them to stay alert and cautious, it also taught them how to cope with potentially
dangerous situations, thus lowering their levels of anxiety.
So, does this
mean you should cut those apron strings and let kids’ fall where they may? Not
exactly, but it wouldn’t hurt if you loosened them a little.
If the thought
of letting your 4-year-old climb Mount Everest is too much to handle, then you
might want to start smaller. Instead of cutting that sandwich into quarters for
them, trying giving them the butter knife and showing them how to do it on
The best way to
eliminate anxiety is to build confidence. Remember, you were a kid once, too,
and if your parents hadn't turned a blind eye every now and again, you'd
probably still be living at home.
Anxiety in preschool-age children is not only common, it's to be expected. "Anxiety is part of the normal developmental process," says Dr. Tamar E. Chansky, a Philadelphia-based youth psychologist and author of Freeing Your Child From Anxiety. Fears and anxiety are typical because they are part of what happens as a child's world—and imagination—expands. Fear also fills the gap between first encountering something and finally understanding it, she explains. "Repeated exposure and proper explanations from parents will help keep a child off the worry track."