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Carolyn Hax: Step in to guide child through the big stuff

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: Common advice is that parents should let kids struggle through issues on their own, thus learning how to manage their friendships, issues, etc. However, there have been tons of letters from adults who say how damaged they are because they didn’t feel their parents protected them.

How does one navigate this? Or should parents simply resign themselves to being despised by their progeny?

– Helicopter vs. Supporting

It’s navigable, but resignation is a solid plan B.

Letting kids work things out is for the small(er), one-off problems: arguments with sibs or friends, a dismissive comment from an adult, difficult homework, bumps and bruises.

Protecting kids is for the big stuff: bullying by family or friends; a learning issue that makes homework crushing; verbal abuse from an adult; a buddy whose unstable or overindulgent household isn’t a safe place for your kid.

The common denominator is frequency. A child needs to learn how to handle hurt feelings from this or that social incident, for example, but can’t be expected to deal alone with the relentless attack of social aggression. Oopses, step back; oppression, step in.

And hugs in both cases. You don’t have to be cold to encourage resiliency.

You also don’t have to get it right every time. Sometimes you’re going to think it’s big when you’re really just overreacting, and sometimes you’re going to brush it off when it turns out to be something big.

When that happens, you pull out your best parental move of all: Apologize to your kid for getting it wrong. Nothing helps a child find the sweet spot where strength and frailty meet than demonstrating it for them yourself.

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