Are You a Drama Mama? Know When to Back Off



Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Cynthia Hanson for Life & Beauty Weekly

Your child has a fight with a friend. She’s in tears; you’re furious and ready to defend her. But should you? In this age of helicopter parenting, it’s hard not to step in when you see your child in a social dilemma. But that’s not always the answer.

“By keeping a distance and parenting from the wings, a parent can help her child work things out without parental intervention,” says Sara Dimerman, therapist, creator of HelpMeSara.com and bestselling author of Am I a Normal Parent? and Character is the Key. “If the parent were to step in and take over, the child may begin to rely on adult intervention to resolve issues and may not be as inclined to think for herself. She may also not gain the life experience to apply to other similar situations as she gets older, even into the workforce.”

Letting children work things out on their own can also be a boost to their self-esteem, says Dimerman. “When children do resolve their own issues, they are proud of themselves and become increasingly self-reliant and confident.”

Here are some common kid dramas your child may face, and how to help her survive them — without being a drama mama.

Drama: Your second-grader is hurt because she didn’t get invited to a classmate’s birthday party.

Solution: Don’t call the birthday child’s mom and demand an invite for your child. Not only is this rude, but it also puts the mom in an awkward position if she has limited space or money for the party. “If the birthday girl was only allowed to invite a certain number of guests, your child may be comforted at being reminded of this,” says Dimerman.

Help your child deal with her disappointment by sharing your own sadness about times when you were left out of parties or clubs. Remind her that she didn’t invite the entire class to her last birthday party, and, if the classmate isn’t a close friend of hers, point that out. Finally, suggest a get-together with her true pals. “Disappointment is part of life, and although we don’t always want to say that to our children, we do want them to learn to cope with disappointment.”

Drama: Your son complains that no one plays with him at recess.

Solution: Call or email the teacher, advises Dimerman. “She may be able to shed some light on the problem.”

Also try to watch your son in action. “If your child is not yet embarrassed by your presence and if you are allowed to, observe your child interact with his peers at recess, in class or even at home,” says Dimerman. “If you notice that your child is behaving in a way that turns kids off, you can say something like ‘I noticed that when you told Steve that he didn’t know what he was talking about, he just walked away. Why do you think that happened?’ Asking kids questions that you already know the answers to, in a curious and gentle manner, can help them arrive at the same answers. This is more effective then just telling them what you think.”

Drama: Your 10-year-old has fallen out with her BFF — whose mom just happens to be a good friend of yours.

Solution: “Most moms know and understand that girls, in particular, can be best friends one day and worst enemies the next,” says Dimerman.

First, ask your daughter what caused the rift, keeping in mind that she’s telling only one side of the story. Be supportive — “It hurts when your friend is mad at you, doesn’t it?” — and suggest she try a heart-to-heart to end the fight. “Help your child explore options in regard to the relationship with her friend. Brainstorm ideas — good and bad — then help your child figure out which she’d like to try first before considering the other options,” says Dimerman.

From there, discuss the issue with your friend — without placing blame on anyone: “It’s hard to watch our girls go through this. It’s probably just a misunderstanding. Let’s get them to sit down and work it out.”

Cynthia Hanson is a journalist who writes for many national publications, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Parents and American BabyShe is a frequent contributor to Life & Beauty Weekly.