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.
But roadside 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 risky play:
- 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 alone.
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 their own.
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.