Building Resilience While Protecting Your Child

Greetings everyone!

Traveling the world to the extent I do, means seeing and experiencing many aspects of human life, and as I have already claimed: the world is still diverse and beautiful!

However, I also see some tendencies cut across the national borders. I see so many parents being so increasingly afraid of the world.

There is a certain fear that surfaces for most of us when we become parents. We want to protect our child from sickness and the cruelty of the world. And the world can be a cruel and dangerous place. We are afraid that something terrible will happen to our children, so we protect them from dangers – but often, many parents will unwillingly end up overprotecting their little children.

I have noticed another tendency, that in my opinion creates something of a paradox. While many well-meaning parents would bend themselves to prevent their child from ever falling on the ground -and yes, we have written about this earlier right here- some parents will on the other hand, let little their child watch violent cartoons, or play violent games on tablets; or they will tell it about what goes on in the world – out of a the wish to prepare the child for the world: Wars. Tsunamis. Global warming. Crimes. Street violence. A robbery nearby. A shooting on the news – and so on.

Even if we don’t tell these things directly to our children, they will often sense our fears. Overprotecting our children can often be a strategy for parents to deal with this underlying fear of the world.

I don’t believe that small children can cope with the harsh cruelty of the big world. it’s too big, and way too abstract, and all it does is potentially create fear. Morever, they can get a sense of the grown ups not having it together. And the child needs you to be a “guarantor for life”; it needs to feel, that life is good.

– So How Can We Protect Our Children And Still Prepare them For The World?

In my head, it is actually quite simple. It is a beautiful thing, that you wan to protect your child; it comes out of love and care. But. You also want your child to build resilience and to become strong and vital. So it needs to practice life itself. Here are some ideas, you can put into practice today:

Protect your little child from all the grown up stuff. Let your child feel that the world is good. Yoo don’t have to lie, but you can certainly turn off the news and be aware of the content of conversations while your child is listening.This feeling of innocent, pure joy of life will be remembered and cherished; it may very well also structure and shape your child as it grows into an adult.

Draw a symbolic circle around your small childand within that space, make it safe, predictable and filled with care. And then let the child practice all it can within that circle.

Show patience, and let your child practice natural, physical skills. It builds resilience in us, when we feel that we master things. And the little child tries to master the physical world for the first many years. Let your child get dressed by itself. Yes, it will sweat, be annoyed and have diffficulties- but it is a healthy and important skill to master.

– let your child help out naturally, and show your child, that you don’t take away its natural responsibility. Maybe your 5 year old is tired and resist walking any further, or carry its own little bag. You could say: “Oh, I understand that you are tired. We can sit here on this bench for a while and catch our breath.” And then, after a while, continue the walk. Try this instead of arguing, but also instead of carrying the child or its bag. Symbolically, we could say: don’t carry your childs own weight.

Trust your child to solve its own conflicts with friends some more, and balance your interference.

– Oh, and let it climb trees! Let it enjoy the wonders and the pitfalls of a world, that is fundamentally beautiful and safe- and a world that makes perfect sense to the child.

Trust your child enough to let it take its own battles and struggle to conquer the world. As long as you know exactly how ‘big’ the world is, according to your child’s age.

What are your experiences with balancing the urge to protect and the wish to encourage to seize life?

Feel free to comment or ask questions right below in the comment area.

With love,

Helle – currently in Chile
and Anna back in Denmark

Comments (4)

  • Silviah Njagi

    Hey Helle and Hanna
    Thank you for your article on resilience. I don’t mind the typos at all…I write little Danish if any;-)

    As a kindergarten teacher I understand what you are saying about allowing children to experience a beautiful natural world. Still I am in pain when they are hurt badly. Recently a boy cut his hand deeply on a protruding stick in the ground. I did the first aid and then met the parents at the hospital. The boy got some 8 stitches. Back at school afterwards I cried a lot and just really wished I could have stopped it happening.
    On further reflection I can now see that the boy learned something about care, healing. This experience brought us adults closer together. And the pain I felt was a bit connected to my inner child who may not have received as much care!

    The symbolic circle I shall carry into my work today.
    Have a pleasant week.
    Warmly Silviah

    • AnnaF

      Dear Silviah,

      Thank you very much for a touching story. Many will probably recognize situations like this, or at least the rising of ones own fears and anxieties when a child gets hurt. – And it is only natural that you had a post-experience reaction to it.

      Your caring for the child and the parents is shining through this story; and what a lucky child to have so much care in his life!

      Of course, it is important that we react with alertness when little children hurt themselves! Yet, if we can try to breathe deeply, and stay as calm as possible while helping the child, it will also help the child to become less afraid.

      Your reflections on the learning process for the child and for the parents as well, are wise and quite brave. Yes- we can learn a lot about our own strengths and abilities to heal, when going through a tough and hurting process, and if we have our eyes and hearts open, we can often see it afterwards.

      Thank you again for your story and for responding to us in such a warming way.

      /Helle and Anna

  • Shell T

    I totally agree with turning off the news… I know that even in the background the tone of this talk will permeate in to a childs being. I say this as I was brought up watching the nightly news every night and hearing it on the radio and hearing talk back radio and how terrible and scary and depressing everything was, even documentaries, dramas, movies would move me and stay deep within. Unknown to my parents I used to secretly check all the windows and doors and wardrobes (scary!) every night some times three times. This has obviously shaped my being and is not something I wish to pass on to my children. We should try so hard to look up and down, to see the world is beautiful, maybe it will make it easier for the person to bare when they discover harsher things later if they have this positive foundation. Thank you for your lovely letters!

    • Helle Heckmann

      Hi Shell T,
      Thank you so much for your words, and for the vivid picture you painted from your own childhood.
      I am sorry for the very late reply to your comment- it must have slipped our attention to make sure we replied to you!

      All the best,
      Helle and Anna


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