Too Safe for Their Own Good
How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive
By Michael Ungar
(McClelland & Stewart, Paperback, 9780771087080, 240pp.)
Publication Date: February 13, 2007
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Canadian children are safer now than at any other time in history. So why are we so fearful for them? When they’re young, we drive them to playdates, fill up their time with organized activity, and cocoon them from every imaginable peril. We think we are doing what’s best for them. But as they grow into young adults and we continue to manage their lives, running interference with teachers and coaches, we are, in fact, unwittingly stunting them.
Internationally respected social worker and family therapist Michael Ungar tells us why our mania to keep our kids safe is causing us to do the opposite: put them in harm’s way. By continuing to protect them from failure and disappointment, many of our kids are missing out on the “risk-taker’s advantage,” the benefits that come from experiencing manageable amounts of danger. In Too Safe for Their Own Good, Ungar inspires parents to recall their own childhoods and the lessons they learned from being risk-takers and responsibility-seekers, much to the annoyance of their own parents. He offers the support parents need in setting appropriate limits and provides concrete suggestions for allowing children the opportunity to experience the rites of passage that will help them become competent, happy, thriving adults.
In many communities, we are failing miserably doing much more than keeping our children vacuum-safe. They are not getting the experiences they need to grow up well. An entire generation of children from middle class homes, in downtown row houses, apartment blocks, and copycat suburbs, whose good fortune it is to have sidewalks and neighbourhood watch programs, crossing guards, and playground monitors, are not being provided with the opportunities they need to learn how to navigate their way through life’s challenges. We don’t intend any harm. Quite the contrary. In our mania to provide emotional life jackets around our kids, helmets and seatbelts, approved playground equipment, after-school supervision, an endless stream of evening programming, and no place to hang out but the tiled flooring of our local mall, we parents are accidentally creating a generation of youth who are not ready for life. Our children are too safe for their own good.
—From Too Safe for Their Own Good
Michael Ungar is an internationally recognized expert on resilience in at-risk youth and leads the International Resilience Project that includes researchers in eleven countries. He teaches at the School of Social Work at Dalhousie University and runs a private practice specializing in working with children and adults in mental health and correctional settings. He has lectured extensively on the subject of resilience and is the author of four books and dozens of professional and scholarly articles. Michael Ungar lives in Halifax with his wife and two children.