No parent wants to see their child in pain. For parents who are natural fixers, the urge to intervene and help a child avoid failure can be a potent force, and one that comes with plenty of rationalizations.
Every child needs to know that they have an unlimited source of support in their parents, who will love and accept them no matter how badly they have failed.
What they don’t need is to conflate that unconditional support with a shield protecting them from experiencing failure. In the end, that only does them a disservice. Here are seven reasons why.
By protecting your child from failure, you are instilling in them a sense of helplessness. What you are really telling your child is that you don’t trust them to be capable of handling the situation on their own. That’s a message that can mess up your child’s psyche leading them to doubt their own competence, avoid situations in which they might fail, and have lower self-esteem.
You may be setting them up for anxiety and depression later in life. Children who have internalized the message that failure isn’t acceptable are more vulnerable to struggles with anxiety and depression later in life, as well as more likely to hold a fear of change and a reluctance to try new things. Their sense of resiliency is also impaired, as they lack the tools to process failure — and find it harder to bounce back from it.
According to child behavioral experts, shielding your child from disappointment or failure can result in an artificially inflated understanding of how they relate to the world.
When you shield your child from discomfort, he or she learns that he or she should never have to feel anything unpleasant in life. As a result, they may develop a false sense of entitlement.
Shielding your child from failure teaches your child that they don’t really have to be prepared in school. He or she learns that his parents will raise their tolerance for deviance. Ultimately, your child learns to confront a problem with power rather than dealing with it through responsibility and acceptance.
Parents should know that by allowing their children to fail, you are teaching them that failure isn’t something to be feared.
When children are allowed to experience failure which is an unavoidable part of life; their sense of sense of worth remains intact. Failure should be understood as an opportunity, or at least as evidence of having tried and learned something in order to be better positioned for success next time.
When children are allowed to fail, they have to face the consequences of their actions (or lack thereof), not blame others, and figure out how to adapt.
Children who pursue their own goals are far more likely to meet those goals and stick with activities for the long haul. Additionally, if you find yourself placing too big a personal stake in your child’s performance, it may be time to reassess your priorities.
When you allow your child fail, you are reinforcing the message that you love them no matter what. Letting your child fail and showing them love in that failure’s wake is one of the most affirming things a parent can do.
It teaches a child that they are enough, outside of how they score or what they accomplish. And that’s a much healthier place to approach “I’ll do better next time” from.
How to help grieving children and teenagers
Children and teenagers express their grief in different ways. Some may be sad and verbalize the loss like many adults. Depending on their ages, however, they may show sadness only sometimes and for short periods.
Children may complain of physical discomfort, such as stomachaches or headaches. Or they may express anxiety or distress about other challenges, such as school or sports.
Loss is more intense when the child had a close relationship with the person who died, such as a parent or sibling. However, this is not always obvious from a child’s reactions.
A child’s grief may seem to come and go. And a child may rarely verbally express his or her grief. This is normal. Your child may also re-experience the intensity of the loss as he or she grows up.
This may occur more often during certain milestones in life, such as starting school or going on a first date. Also, important events such as graduating from the university or getting married may trigger renewed grief.
It is helpful to know how children understand death at different stages of development. It varies by age and often changes as a child develops emotionally and socially.
Other factors also influence children’s reactions. These can include personality, previous experiences with death, and support from family members.
Helping your child cope with loss
Explain death in simple, direct, honest terms geared to your child’s developmental level. Children cannot reflect on their thoughts and emotions like adults. So they will need to have many short conversations. Adults may need to repeat the same information many times. Children may ask the same questions often as they try to make
Explain death using real words such as died rather than confusing phrases such as ‘gone to sleep.’ You can say that death means the person’s body has stopped working or that the person can no longer breathe, talk, move, eat, or any of the things he or she could do when alive. Share your family’s religious or spiritual beliefs about death. Encourage your child to ask questions, and try to answer them honestly and directly. If you do not know the answer to a question, help find the answer.
Make sure your child understands that he or she is not to blame for the death and that the person who died is not coming back.
Provide lots of affection and reassure your child often that he or she will continue to be loved and cared for.
Encourage your child to talk about his or her emotions. Suggest other ways to express feelings, such as writing in a journal or drawing a picture.
Without overwhelming your child, share your grief with him or her. Expressing your emotions can encourage your son or daughter to share his or her own emotions. Help your child understand that normal grief involves a range of emotions, including anger, guilt, and frustration. Explain that his or her emotions and reactions may be very different from those of adults.
Reassure your child that it is normal for the pain of grief to come and go over time. Explain that they cannot always predict when they will feel sad. Care, consistency, and continuity help children feel safe. Encourage spending time with friends and engaging in other age-appropriate activities.
Reassure your child that it is never disloyal to the person who died to feel happy and to have fun.
Speak with a grief counselor, child psychologist, or other mental health professional if you are concerned about your child’s behavior.