PEI

Overprotecting children can affect life skills, says Dalhousie University prof

When parents excessively try to protect their children from every obstacle in life, the consequences can be a child’s inability to solve their own problems when they get older, says Michael Ungar, a professor in the school of social work at Dalhousie University.

So-called bubble wrapping kids can affect mental health, coping skills

Overprotecting children can impact their ability to solve their own problems, says Michael Ungar. (Shutterstock)

When parents excessively try to protect their children from every obstacle in life — often described by the metaphor of wrapping them in bubble wrap — the consequences can be a child's inability to solve their own problems when they get older, says Michael Ungar, a professor in the school of social work at Dalhousie University.

Bubble wrapping children

"Persistently, we're still seeing those parents who are obsessing on getting their kids extremely protective and levelling the playing field and making sure that there is never anything, in a sense, bad that is going to happen to their child," said Ungar. 

"The point is, as parents, our job is to get kids ready for independent living, not just to protect them from the consequences of their actions."

Rather than overprotect their children, Ungar would rather see parents let them try to be more resilient and try to solve some of their own problems and develop a "risk taker's advantage."

Risk taker's advantage

He explained that developing this in children is similar to an inoculation.

"That reasonable amounts of responsibility, good amounts of risk in a child's life, is actually going to make them … stronger, better, more competent, caring contributors to our community." 

Ungar said this trend of overprotecting kids is contributing to increased hospital visits for mental health reasons. 

Schools also play a role in overprotecting kids and not giving them the coping skills they need in life.

An example is suspending kids for misbehaviour rather than giving them the responsibility and opportunity to fix their mistake.

Ungar was in Charlottetown on Thursday to speak at the annual P.E.I. Teacher's Federation convention.

With files from Island Morning

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