PEACE OF MIND FOR WORRIED PARENTS
Is it possible to be immune to fear? There are documented cases, notably a well-studied woman with Urbach-Wiethe disease (a genetic disorder that damaged her brain’s emotional center). Like immunity to physical pain, immunity to fear is a highly mixed blessing: it can lead one to seriously underestimate risks and walk straight into dangerous situations.
Sound like any toddlers or teenagers you know? People under the age of full brain maturity are notoriously prone to attitudes of “No matter what I explore/experiment with, nothing will happen to me.” Which leaves their parents/guardians to do the worrying for them—and most parents are very good at that.
In many ways, life today is safer than it’s ever been—yet if anything, parents worry more about their children. The same technological advances that allow emergency workers to respond quickly and that make preventive medical care widespread, have also allowed “this or that might happen” speculations to multiply at unprecedented rates. But stressed-out parents and excessive restrictions don’t do kids much good. Here are some better ways to watch over your children without worrying yourself half to death.
Limit Your Own News Exposure
This includes social-media news and neighborhood gossip as well as “official” news. It all tends toward emphasizing the worst—if nothing else, constant reminders that the worst is possible will incline you toward seeing it as inevitable. Give your brain and nerves a break with more positive input: inspirational literature, motivational podcasts, prayer/meditation, time walking outside in beautiful places, time spent talking and playing as a family.
Listen to the Kids
No, you don’t have to believe it when they insist, “I’ll be just fine” walking alone to their friend’s house on the other side of a busy highway. But often they do have insights into the situation (and their own capabilities) that you wouldn’t have considered. Even if you have to say a firm “No” in the end, just considering your children’s viewpoints will help them feel respected and understood—and more inclined to seek your advice rather than engaging in dangerous behavior behind your back.
Accept That You Can’t Control Everything
Like it or not, no parent has absolute power to protect children from every dangerous situation—not even when literally standing beside them. You can deny this and keep up the frantic attempts to head off every danger; you can sink into resigned despair—or you can allow the truth to set you free by focusing on what you can do, and leaving the rest in the hands of a higher power. With the last option, you become more effective at protecting your kids by clearing your own thinking for realistic assessment of each situation. And you’re freed to take care of yourself and stay in peak condition to deal with real trouble.
Being a parent is rarely easy, but it should be joyful. You can improve quality of life for your children and for yourself by beating the worry habit.