Removing the Safety Net From Our Children

Removing the Safety Net From Our Children

Mother nature instinctively teaches us to protect our children no matter what the cost, so when it comes to letting our children grow up how easy is it to stand back and remove the safety net that we have carefully placed around them?

As parents we are presented with this challenge each time our children pass another milestone.  Some milestones and the responses they evoke are more ludicrous than others.  Am I alone in having felt that wave of panic when your preschool child first goes on a play date with a new friend?  It is an irrational panic of course that makes you spend your precious childfree time apart wondering if they are OK with these "relative strangers" and have remembered everything you told them not to do, like not to eat a grape whole in case they choke and the parent isn't profficient in the heimlich manoeuvre!!

Or how about an invitation to the theatre, cinema or a shopping centre that brings you out in hives as you have nightmares about their becoming separated and lost forever. Then there is the hurdle of the school trip.  I have seen goliath mothers reduced to gibbering wrecks at the anxiety of being separated from their offspring for more than 24 hours.

Everyone's anxieties are different and there is no right or wrong response to a scenario other than ensuring you make the right decision fundamentally for you and your child.  However, as each of these milestones are passed and our children survive, the safety net is widened some more and new caveats introduced as they take on more individual responsibility - going to the corner shop alone, catching a bus with a friend - basically there is always the "next thing" they want to do.

Now, however, as a parent to teenagers I have noticed the challenges to the safety nets I have erected to protect them are more frequent and on occasion more sinister.

Last year our daughter, the youngest teen signed up for an end of year school trip to France. Unfortunately, six months prior to the trip in late 2015, France was blighted by a series of terrorist attacks.  Some school trips were reported in the media as cancelled on the advice of the Foreign Office.  By the time of our daughter's trip, however, the no travel alert had been lifted and it was deemed safe for everything to go ahead as planned. Some parents, however, disagreed and their daughters pulled out.  Now I have a first class degree in worrying but for my part, I felt that it was important to maintain perspective on the level of threat at that time and an air of calm as I didn't want my daughter to feel an unecessary sense of alarm. After all being caught in a terrorist attack has a lower likelihood than that of contracting cancer.

Despite feeling confident in my decision I would be lying, however, if I didn't say that their doubt didn't force me to question whether I was being a "responsible parent" in allowing her to go, much to the annoyance of my husband who finds such paranoia beyond comprehension.  But that is what happens when someone plants a seed of doubt in your mind.

In another instance a series of attempted abductions in our area forced parents to reconsider the "safety" of their children walking home from school. There was a feeling of needing to protect our girls but simultaneously not wanting to take it to such an extreme that they would think there was a bogey man on every street corner.  At the end of the day it came down to reinforcing the safety net for a while and insisting the girls did not travel alone.

On a  different note, my eldest teen attended a Grime concert in Kentish Town recently.  For those not familiar with the world of Grime, it is a music movement that began in East London in 2001 and includes artists like Dizzee Rascal. The essence of the music is anti-establishment and the lyrics are fast and full of authentic accents and slang.

This all seems harmless enough but one of the elements of Grime music, is the moshpits it provokes.  Now for me ie "the oldie in the corner" the moshpit has always simply been the huddle at the front near the stage, but as the teen said quite clearly "Oh Mum you just don't understand!" - in the Grime world it means so much more.  According to the teen the concerts are highly charged and the moshpits involve forming a circle and on the order of the artist, charging in to the centre.

Sometimes I have found with teenagers that there is such a thing as too much information and this revelation was one of those times.  Not only was he travelling to the other side of London, but he was also placing himself voluntarily in an aggressive scenario.  He is almost 18 and perfectly capable of looking after himself but for me it was time to worry some more about his safety. Why couldn't he go to a "nice" concert with seats and just stand up and wave his arms around??  His answer of course was "That's boring!"

As parents it is natural to worry and mothers in particular are very good at it, but as my teenagers grow up and explore more I have found it is important to keep a balanced view and not to freak out, lock them in the house and stop them doing things . It is not easy sometimes to stand back and remove that safety net but as my daughter's French teacher said prior to the trip, if you stifle young people's opportunities and stop them doing things, you run the risk of them being anxious.  We all want children with lifeskills and an ability to be independent, not children who are afraid to venture out in to the world, take risks and explore what life has to offer don't we?

 

What do you think?  How do you manage the balance of keeping your child safe and letting them explore life's possibilities?

This post is linked with the following:

One Messy MamaMummuddlingthroughTammymumDiary of an imperfect mumPost Comment LoveA Mum Track MindMy Petit CanardCuddle Fairy

Follow:

53 Comments

  1. December 15, 2016 / 9:07 am

    Definitely a tough one – I think part of the problem is that we do have so much knowledge nowadays. We can track our kids, google information about their latest craze and we expect them to be in touch with us constantly. I’m sure generations before us worried still, but I wonder if ignorance really was bliss?
    Kirsty recently posted…What is the best stunt scooter under £100 in 2016?My Profile

    • December 19, 2016 / 7:13 pm

      Kirsty you are so right, there is definitely such a thing as too much information which can in some situations only fuel our anxieties. Thanks for your comment.

  2. December 14, 2016 / 5:29 pm

    I totally agree with you here. My eldest is 12 and I panic when he’s not home by 4:30pm, he gets the bus to and from school and I know when he’s meant to be home. It’s terrifying thinking what could’ve happened… then he walks through the door saying he was chatting to friends. My youngest is just starting with the independence, he’s 7, and wants to walk to school alone. We live 2 miles away from school so that’s not happening yet but I do let him walk ahead. 🙂
    You’re right about letting them go, it’s hard but it’s got to be done.
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo
    Morgan Prince recently posted…Read stories to your children this ChristmasMy Profile

    • December 19, 2016 / 7:10 pm

      It is tough when they want to strike out and be independent not to let them see your fears and anxieties, every time I think I have conquered one another comes along to take its place. It’s also hard when you have a larger age gap because the younger always wants to do what the eldest is doing. #PoCoLo

  3. December 8, 2016 / 4:14 pm

    I thought I had it bad trying to decide whether to let my 6 year old ride his bike down a ramp but it sounds like there may be some larger challenges ahead! #ablogginggoodtime

    • December 11, 2016 / 6:53 pm

      Indeed but it is all relative. Make the most of it. #ablogginggoodtime

  4. December 4, 2016 / 9:49 pm

    Oh my goodness, your post had me shuddering with all that is yet to come with our 7 year old. Buses with friends, going to the shop?! Surely not for at least another 30 years?! I’d like to think that I’ll be the chilled out, carefree parent. Hmmm! #pocolo
    Carol Cameleon recently posted…Time for some happy in my #HighlightsofHappy #21My Profile

    • December 5, 2016 / 9:01 am

      Oh dear not too much I hope. As our kids grow up there is always a new challenge around the corner and usually a hidden pleasure too. #PoCoLo

  5. December 3, 2016 / 6:33 pm

    Great post. I think it’s natural to want to protect your children from the world’s dangers. But I do think doing so can reach a point where you are actually stopping them from having any experiences of the world around them and to me, that’s sad. Children need to experience things to learn and enjoy themselves. I also think with teenagers, if you try to stop them every doing anything, eventually, they’ll stop asking and just do things by lying to you
    Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK
    Debbie
    Random Musings recently posted…Blogger Spotlight Interview: Mrs Mummy Harris 86My Profile

    • December 5, 2016 / 9:00 am

      We certainly can’t cosset our children forever and as you say with teenagers if you tie them down too much they will find a way to break free and perhaps do things behind your bag. Thanks for your insights – great as always. #bloggerclubuk

  6. November 30, 2016 / 7:02 pm

    The balance between freedom and helicopter parenting is so hard to find, and even harder to stick to. I want my children to have freedom, but sometimes i just can’t get my fears out of my head enough to let them have it….But I think it’s important to learn to let go, to give them the opportunity to live, to make and learn from mistakes. Oh, but it is so hard to do when you just want to protect them from everything, but i don’t want to protect them from life, and that is what i will be doing if i don’t do a better job at letting go. #BloggerClubUK

    • November 30, 2016 / 7:52 pm

      Brandi your last sentence says it all really for me – we all want to protect them from everything we deem bad but not at the risk of protecting them from life and ultimately the joy that comes from exploring new things and having new adventures. Interesting that you also say that letting them go is our job – of course it is really as much as we might hate it, ultimately that is what we are preparing them for. Thanks so much for you insights. #BloggerClubUK

  7. November 30, 2016 / 10:14 am

    I complain about parenting my toddler and am becoming increasingly anxious about the older years. I honestly don’t know how I’ll cope when my son is out and about unattended or going to house parties and inevitably getting drunk. It’s a scary world out there and they seem to think they’re invincible sometimes. I now feel so bad for putting my own parents through it when I was a kid!

    • November 30, 2016 / 5:39 pm

      Yes it is interesting, I have to stop myself and remember what I did as a teenager too sometimes but I was brought up in the countryside where there was certainly less to do and the entertainment there was, was relatively well contained to one key area and the threats not as great – or at least they didn’t feel like it at the time. Thanks for commenting.

  8. November 30, 2016 / 9:04 am

    Hahaha you had me laughing because I can imagine your teenager telling you about the Grime scene! To be honest I’ve listened to some of it and the beat is kind of catchy haha, but the lyrics are absolute shite ; ). I think you’ve made the right decision with both of your children, to allow them to go to a concert and go to France you’re giving them the chance to be themselves and to learn about the world. I mean what else would they be doing at home? I do understand though how scary it can be especially something like a terrorist attack but like you say cancer is more likely! Eek thanks for sharing with #GlobalBlogging!
    The Mum Project recently posted…GUEST SERIES: Not Everything is Black and White – The Squirmy PoppleMy Profile

    • November 30, 2016 / 10:05 am

      Yes I did kind of feel my age for sure but at least I now feel I can hold my own in a conversation with these teens when they invade my house and it is certainly an unusual area of knowledge for those dull dinner party moments. #globalblogging

  9. November 30, 2016 / 3:08 am

    Wow, reading this post made my heart rate increase! I am SUCH a worry wart! And TOTALLY paranoid. Now my kids are 6 and under, I can’t even think about their teenage years yet, I’d get the hives :).. I agree with you though, it is so important to give them the space to grow and learn. I just hope I’m ready for that stage! Well, I will have to be won’t I! Great post!

    • November 30, 2016 / 10:01 am

      There is always something to worry about whatever their age and some of those worries remain the same however old they are. But you don’t need to panic just yet, kick back and enjoy. Thanks for dropping by.

  10. November 29, 2016 / 10:50 pm

    What a thoughtful post. It really got me thinking. I remember when I had kids, I suddenly realised all the worry my mum had gone through with us. How did she ever let my sister and I cross the roads by ourselves? How did she let me go to parties til late? I think that’s why it helps in my marriage that Richard is much more willing to let them make mistakes and loosen the reins…To let them take risks. Otherwise, as Prof Winston said, our kids will become conditioned and frightened of challenges. It’s hard though. There were probably plenty of bogey men when we were young but with social media and 24 hour news, we know they’re there now! Thanks for sharing. #MarvMOndays
    Jane Taylor recently posted…‘I’ve got a new vag’ and other hilarious autocorrect fails.My Profile

    • November 30, 2016 / 9:56 am

      What would we do without the men in our lives to keep a level head? My husband is definitely my voice of reason when I feel the anxiety rising. You are right as well – there were dangers in our day but with limited media outlets we lived in a world of ignorant bliss. Thanks for stopping by. #MarvMondays

  11. November 29, 2016 / 12:19 am

    oh lovely I am with you here! It is terrifying as they have our hearts and they are so inexperienced yet think they know it all. I am so scared for the next years coming, but like you say we can not stop them from doing most things as it creates anxious children and anxious adults, I don’t want my kids living in fear so I have to control my own. In May next year Aspen will be a teenager and oh my gosh I am worried!

    Really amazing post! #MarvMondays
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…Happiness and Pain Levels #mgMy Profile

    • November 30, 2016 / 9:51 am

      Controlling our own fears is what it is all about and actually not letting them see them if that is possible. My teenagers know I am worrier but actually my eldest thinks I am more open to some things that he was expecting. We are not through the woods completely yet though. Thanks for your lovely comment as always. #MarvMondays

  12. November 27, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    Brilliant post Jo! Since my son is only 16months I have a way to go before I have to worry about the mosh pits but I do let my son take risks now. I let him climb, I let him wander off, I let him eat dirt and play dough and try paint and drink dishwater… It’s exploration for him at the moment. Gosh help me when he gets older!! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun
    Karen | TwoTinyHands recently posted…Happy Days #37 – New ClothesMy Profile

    • November 28, 2016 / 9:56 pm

      Life is an exploration and good for you for letting him get on with it and have his own little journeys of discovery so early – particularly the eating thing – how else do they get to know what not to put in their mouth? I remember that stage so well surprisingly. Thanks for commenting Karen. #familyfun

  13. November 27, 2016 / 6:40 pm

    This isnhard getting the right balance must be a real struggle. I know my auntie often feels she is treading a fine line between protecting/setting boundaries and not pushing her daughter away or limiting her. I think the French school trip would have been very difficult decision to make I don’t envy you but I think I would have fallen on the same answer. Goodness all this to come is frightening. It’s so easy to say you need to let them grow and experience things for themselves but when you’re saying it about tor own I imagine it to be very different! Thanks for sharing at #familyfun xx
    Tammymum recently posted…A Week Not To Be Repeated…My Profile

    • November 28, 2016 / 10:01 pm

      My husband thinks that I am getting worse with age and spend way too long agonising over what is the right decision for my teens but it is just a battle between my heart and my brain most of the time. I know we start doing that from the day our children are born but as they grow the battle over the decision does get tougher. Thanks for commenting. #familyfun

  14. November 26, 2016 / 7:12 pm

    It’s a tricky one for sure. Even as young as my twins, they are thinking about walking, letting go while standing and I just want to rush in and catch them in a panic. But realise they will have to go through the falls to learn! #PoCoLo

    • November 27, 2016 / 9:51 am

      Yes life is full of falls and setbacks which help to shape us and learning through our experiences is a part of that. #PoCoLo

    • November 30, 2016 / 10:07 am

      I suppose no-one ever said raising children was going to be easy did they? Thanks for commenting Lizzie. #PoCoLo

  15. November 26, 2016 / 3:41 pm

    Such an amazing point that needs to be made and discussed… my little man is only two but I am slowly feeling more and more like I know that there are going to be so many challenging times head where I will feel the need to protect but be torn between that and setting him free to explore the world! <3 #coolmumclub

    • November 26, 2016 / 3:52 pm

      Rebecca you have some major milestones of your own coming up and as mothers we are always looking ahead to the next set of experiences and challenges. Thanks for commenting. #coolmumclub

  16. November 26, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    It is always hard to find a balance when we are trying to keep them safe. We want to let them explore the world, but at the same time keep them close to us. I think we have to talk to them, let them know the dangers and tell them how to stay safe.
    #fortheloveofBLOG

    • November 26, 2016 / 3:51 pm

      Ali you are so right of course and talking is a key part of educating them on the dangers and keeping them safe. #fortheloveofBLOG

  17. November 25, 2016 / 2:47 pm

    Such a god post, it’s true where do we draw the line. Children thrive when they’re given a sense of freedom, yet safety must always be the trump card, so difficult, every parent is different, again great post (:#ablogginggoodtime

    • November 25, 2016 / 2:53 pm

      Wherever we draw the line as parents, our children will instinctively push against it too. They do flourish though when they have that freedom to explore further, even if it is a bit agonising at times. Thanks for commenting. #ablogginggoodtime

  18. November 25, 2016 / 2:22 pm

    My kids are still very young but I believe it’s all about communication and trust and if we’ve given our kids strong roots we need to have confidence and trust that we can let them go. but ask me again when they are teenagers and I may answer differently! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime
    An imperfect mum (Catie) recently posted…Friday Focus: Beach therapyMy Profile

    • November 25, 2016 / 2:50 pm

      Communication is so important and i have said that in previous posts that if we can maintain those open lines of communication with our children that is half the battle. Thanks for commenting and thanks for the featured blogger award. #ablogginggoodtime

  19. November 25, 2016 / 10:07 am

    I really enjoyed reading this post – especially your wish for a safer concert experience for your son! I think it’s our job as parents to enable our kids to become fully independent, so from the moment they are at school you are kind of training them to not need you anymore. Obvioulsy that doesn’t mean not being there for them, listening to them, guiding them etc. I do think we do our kids a favour if we gradually stop doing things for them that they are capable of doing for themselves. (it’s not always easy though!) My eldest leaves for University next autumn. I’m going to miss her like crazy but I reckon she’ll be ready for that next phase. #ablogginggoodtime

    • November 25, 2016 / 2:48 pm

      Thanks Lynne – my safer concert experience probably reflects my age! You are right about the importance of getting them ready to be independent. My son will be heading off next Autumn too and to be honest I think it will be a bit of shock for him on many levels, but he like your daughter is definitely ready for that next phase. Thanks for your comments. #ablogginggoodtime

  20. November 24, 2016 / 5:28 pm

    OH yes! This is such a challenge and one we need to grow accustomed to. No matter what we do, they will need to be self-sufficient and able to handle risk-taking on their own…yet our hearts are torn as we worry for their safety. After all, we hold them in our bodies and as babies and protect them from everything, be it cold, sickness or an overbearing stranger. But, they learn and we must teach them to view the world with a critical mind…and then we have to trust them! #familyfun

    • November 24, 2016 / 7:47 pm

      Rachel you have summed it up so beautifully – I may have to insert your comment in the post. Teaching them to view with a critical mind is key, they need to be aware of the dangers, to know how to question their own safety and by being so well equipped we can feel safer in the knowledge that they are prepared for life throws their way. Thanks so much for dropping by. #familyfun

  21. November 24, 2016 / 1:57 pm

    I worry a lot too, and even though my children are very young I find my mind jumping forward to school trips and the like. I don’t know how I will feel at the time but right now I hate the thought!

    #GlobalBlogging

    • November 24, 2016 / 2:28 pm

      I was always fine with school trips as I knew the teachers were professionals and had the best interests of the children at heart but it is a hurdle and you do spend your days and nights wondering about them and wishing for some news. The children do love them though and that is the main thing. #globalblogging

  22. November 24, 2016 / 12:49 pm

    I do think worrying is a normal part of being a parent, but I do feel like we live in a culture of anxiety now which has meant we worry far more than necessary (me included) and therefore overprotect. I often find myself really having to go against what I actually think and feel so as not to “squash” my daughter, something I know I will have to do more and more as she gets older.. Such an incisive post thanks for linking up to ##coolmumclub lovely x
    Talya recently posted…What is it really like….parenting a child with ADHD?My Profile

    • November 24, 2016 / 12:54 pm

      I agree, ours is so much more an anxiety culture than the one I remember growing up in and it doesn’t help if other people feed our anxiety with their own concerns. It is that whole mushroom effect and ultimately it is so unhealthy for us as parents and our kids. Glad it sparked some thoughts. Thanks for your comment. #coolmumclub

  23. November 24, 2016 / 11:29 am

    This is emotionally tough to do but I do agree, we have to let them go as and when they are ready or nearly ready otherwise they will not learn and grow in confidence. It is by facing challenges alone that they learn. But it is hard as a parent. My children are younger than yours but I am now having to let my eldest do more and more on his own and it is not easy at times. Whilst I want to give him freedom and I do, I have that doubt at the back of my mind when he is off alone ‘What if something goes wrong?’. I don’t think we can ever be rid of that though. It is part of living. Great post.
    Kirsten Toyne recently posted…The Mixed Feelings Of PregnancyMy Profile

    • November 24, 2016 / 12:50 pm

      Kirsten you are right that question “What if..” is always there and I am asking myself that more and more nowadays but I want my children to grow, embrace opportunities and make mistakes and letting out the leash is part of the learning process for me and them. Thanks for your comment. x

  24. November 24, 2016 / 9:57 am

    I understand and know all about the fear of letting go.. I just got around of letting my son go and come from school by himself, and his school is just 10 min walk away from home… And still wait for him at the window, if I am home from work…:) I think it always stays with you – that need to protect your child. we just need to learn to control it and not become overparenting about it..
    #coolmumclub

    • November 24, 2016 / 12:45 pm

      Oh yes that is exactly one of those milestones I mentioned. Our anxiety is not helped by the changing nature of the world we live in now which is so different to when I was growing up for example. I am sure the terrors were still there but they weren’t as omnipresent as they are nowadays. It is mportant though that we don’t hinder them from exploring and growing up. You are right controlling our anxiety is key. Thanks for commenting. #coolmumclub

  25. November 24, 2016 / 8:57 am

    I think we will always worry, it’s a natural thing to do. It’s all about getting the right balance between being sensible and being overprotective #coolmumclub

    • November 24, 2016 / 12:38 pm

      Worrying is natural yet totally exhausting. I am not sure that I will ever stop worrying, even when they have left home. Thanks for your comment. #coolmumclub