25 February 2014


Last night I had a conversation with a fifteen year old.  I have known this lad for about a year.  When I first met him he was very quiet.  Now he has revealed himself to be very funny, he has perfect timing and is very quick with his quips.  I can guarantee he will make you laugh, a lot.  I have realised that he is quiet when he is out of his comfort zone, when he feels that he has taken on something that he doesn't feel able to handle or is capable of.  He seeks me out, alone, to ask me and tell me things.  Inside the comedian exterior he is lost.  He has lost his identity, his sense of self.  I had a conversation with someone this last week about two children who were the same.  They feel very scared, as opposed to trepidatious, about doing something new.

A baby is completely dependant on its parents to care for it and meet, or attempt to work out, it's needs.  Within their first year they start to make small steps away, coming back to the parent, the safety net.  As the child grows as does their desire to explore, to make sense of their surroundings.  But as they explore we naturally want to keep our children safe, away from harm.  If we tell our children to be careful or suggest that they may not be able to do something is this really that helpful.  Who is really fearful you or your child.  By using these words you are planting your fears into your child's head.  They may have not even considered whether or not they could do what they are about to  do but your words have planted some doubts into their head.  You are their wise protector and you think they cannot do it so maybe they can't, rather than enjoying the moment this becomes their overriding feeling.  When we are distracted, we usually fail. If it really is that dangerous should you be there in the first place.  The best way to keep a child from harm is to give them freedom to explore and let them get on with it.  This may feel counter intuitive but they will become better able to anticipate and avoid dangers as they get older, but they can only develop these skills if they are given the support they are need and treated with trust and respect.

Last nights conversation made me sad.  Sad that a young man on the brink of going out into the world independently has not been able to build the resources he needs.  I have heard his parents speak to him.  He doesn't trust himself or his abilities, he has no sense of who he really is.  The restrictions placed on him are necessary because he has not been able to build a framework for himself, he doesn't know what he could be capable of because he has not had the freedom to explore.  His parents fears have become his.


  1. Very wise post. It is always hard not to point out all the dangers to our children but as you say sometimes we must let them find out for themselves and trust in their innate intuition and instincts to keep them safe. If we have been there in the background when they need us they are much more willing and able to fly the nest and do their own thing. You might be interested in my post "Apron Strings" here: http://marigoldjam.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/apron-strings-what-apron-strings.html on this very subject!

    1. A wonderful post that you for the link :). I hope my children go off on similar explorations when they are older!

  2. It's tough - as parents we want to see no harm coming to our children, but as you point out, to do that we have to give them freedom to explore. My eldest is 9 and is starting to want to go places and come home from them on his own (my husband has more of a problem letting him do this than I do). We recently let him and a friend go x-county skiing on their own for a few hours (they came back at the time they were told to and only went on the frozen lake a 'little bit'!!). It's a lovely feeling to be know that when they are 'out in public' without you that you can trust them - I hope it lasts into the teenage years!! I guess if the foundation is strong enough it should do (no doubt there will be a few hiccups).

  3. Such an interesting post. There are a lot of fears as a parent I think, it is so hard to get it right. I do hope he finds his way very soon.

  4. As a parent, it's so hard to know where and when to "let go" and give responsibilities to our children. I recently started letting my children walk home from school alone and I think I still don't breathe freely until they're safe at home. They on the other hand LOVE their new freedom. It's such a balancing act!
    Thanks for your post. I'll be thinking about it in the weeks to come...Aloha, Lori

  5. Those kind of conversations are tough. Sadly, parents don't have the opportunity to go back and "revise" their decisions that in hindsight were obviously more of a hindrance than they were helpful. What can be done now but move on and trust that there is much wisdom to be gained from the experience. I'm glad your friend had someone to listen to him when he needed it :).


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