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March 18, 2001

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Question from Rivesville, West Virginia, USA:

My eight year son has had diabetes for almost two years. All of my family is saying that I treat him like a baby, and although I know that this is true, I feel like I need to protect him now more than ever. Who knows what and when anything could happen. Am I wrong to do this?

Answer:

Although it seems to make a lot of sense to be overprotective of your child, you can wind up doing more harm than good. Most parents want to overprotect their child because they want to try and make things a bit more “fair” after their child has been diagnosed with something that is so completely unfair. However, you may be teaching your child a number of messages you really don’t want him to have:

You are unable to care for yourself and will always need someone else to protect you.
You are different than everyone else.
The rules other people have to live by are not applicable to you.

If a child learns these lessons, they may become whiny, entitled, difficult to get along with, and unable to solve problems on their own. So, think about what your goals are for your son. Are they to help him become a productive, happy, well-liked person? If so, he will need to learn strategies to help him successfully cope with all of the unfair things that life will hand him. Hopefully, you can work on finding ways of coping together.

JWB