As someone who has spent a lot of time parenting and discussing parenting strategies, I’ve encountered a common tendency among parents, including myself – overprotection. It’s a topic that’s both dear and familiar to me. Especially in today’s culture, we desire our kids to be safe and feel safe, and we strive to provide a protective environment for them. However, we must discern the line between protection and overprotection.

I used to often find myself saying, “I don’t want my kid to feel this,” or “I don’t want my kid to think this.” But I had to pause and ask, “Why not?” Why did I want to shield my daughter from their feelings or thoughts? Of course, when she was thinking negatively about herself or expressing disappointment or sadness, my instinct was to comfort her and ease her distress.

However, I realized that my urge to shield her was more about my discomfort than her wellbeing. Instead of healthily separating out and supporting her to have her experience, I was imposing my feelings and discomfort onto her. I was trying to take her experiences away from herto alleviate my discomfort, which honestly was not always supportive.

My realization came when my daughter left home. She had experiences and thoughts that I wasn’t there to protect her from or convince her weren’t true. This made me realize that I needed to learn to tolerate my own discomfort while coming along side her to experience life’s ups and downs with support.

So, what does tolerating your discomfort look like? Let’s imagine your child comes home from school upset because a friend has said something upsetting to them, or they’ve been excluded from a group.

Instead of getting caught up in the story or trying to talk them out of their feelings, ask them to tell you more. I find it an art to listen without joining or agreeing with the story. “Of course, you didn’t like when they talked to you that way…of course, you wish they would stop….” Instead of “That was not OK for them to talk to you that way…I’m going to talk to the teacher right now”. Remember, this is their experience not yours and it is not your job to rescue them. Once they have shared then together you can brainstorm about practical steps to take.

If you validate their feelings without joining in the story, you support them in processing their emotions and understanding them better. They experience that feelings come and go, and they don’t define who they are. If you make a big fuss about those feelings or try to talk your kids out of them, those feelings start to feel like they have more power than they actually have.

When your kid comes home and tells you a story, remember, it’s never about what you think it’s about. Don’t join them in the story. Listen, empathize, and support them. Validate their feelings, remind them that they’re okay, and you’re there with them.

This week, I encourage you to sit with your discomfort while supporting your children to experience their feelings. It might be tough, but it will be worth it.