It’s not often that I read an article about parenting that really touches a nerve. “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” published in the Atlantic, is the most recent exception. I’ve read it a few times now and it’s causing all sorts of thoughts to swirl in my head.
It’s a long article but I hope you do find a few minutes to read it. Because in a way, I think it speaks to so much of what we talk about and worry about as parents: Our kids’ happiness and well-being. In the most oversimplified form, here’s the point the article makes:
By trying so hard to make our kids happy and remove any stress and discomfort from their lives, parents might actually be contributing to the kids’ anxiety and frustration when they get older.
The argument — supported, as written in the article, by many leading pediatricians, researchers and psychiatrists — is fairly straight forward:
Trying to be the very best parents we can be and do the very best for our kids we insulate them from as much discomfort, difficult situations, anxiety and stress as possible. We give them unconditional support, drive them to every activity they are interested in, rush home every night to help them with homework or to cheer them as they play soccer/tennis/insert your kids’ activities here. But then they grow up and go off to college and we can’t be there to do all that, which means they face real life. Real life is filled with discomfort, difficult situations, anxiety and stress — completely normal — but because we’ve shielded our kids from all that when they were growing up, they are less able to deal with it and it causes them greater anxiety than it should.
Trying to do everything you can to make your kids happy = risking making it very difficult for them to be happy when they grow up.
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