Fears are a normal part of the human existence. Since the beginning of time we have used a healthy sense of fear to prevent us from falling prey to all sorts of dangers. Our bodies have special hormones dedicated to prepping us for fight or flight in the face of peril. As parents we use fear and anxiety as cues to help us make decisions about what our children eat, where they play, and who can be trusted with them. However, fear is an emotion separate from any immediate danger, and is subject to our thoughts and beliefs about what we are facing. If we solely use fear as a guide we can become overbearing and restrictive. So where is the line between healthy fear and a phobia? Here we will discuss several common parenting fears and ways you can manage them healthfully.
1. I am not a good enough parent
No matter if they are sharing their success or need your comfort your child wants you. Only that person who they share that special child parent bond with will do. Yes, you are human, and you make mistakes. That is part of the parenting process as well as part of our child's education. Each time you make a mistake and recover from it your child learns not to fear making mistakes. Each time you apologize for a misstep they learn it is okay to vulnerable.
Think of it from you child's perspective. If they were in the car when you got a ticket what would they think? Would they think, “Mom's a lousy driver.” Probably not. Most likely they would learn that when you speed you get a ticket. How you handle getting a ticket would also teach them something. Did you complain how unfair it was afterward? Or did you accept responsibility for the mistake and move on?
Chances are your child thinks you are wonderful. Our biggest adversary is ourselves. This next month keep a simple one line journal highlighting one good moment you had with your child(ren) that day. At the end of the month read it. It is easier to acknowledge our successes if we look at the impact they make over time..
2. My child doesn't measure up –
Throughout American pop culture we are inundated with the message that if we do not achieve financial success, conform to a unreachable standard of beauty, or are not a professional athlete we are not as good as others. There is a stigma associated with failure of any sort, and we as parents want to protect our children from any social isolation and labels that comes from achieving less than their peers.
Failure is an unavoidable part of life and yet there is an inherent value in failure. If you have failed it means you took a risk. Risk taking is very valuable trait that shows ambition and resiliency. So how can you take risks without experiencing failure? You can't. Neither can your child. So instead of trying to protect your child from failure, prepare them for it. Let them make their own decisions. Start small by letting them choose their cloths and hair. As you both become more confident give them bigger decisions to make such as what sport they want to be involved in, or whether they want to quit sports and focus on another interest.
Children develop at their own pace and have their own unique talents and directions. When you show an interest in where they are at and on those things they want to spend their time on you show you trust their judgment. It is that ability to exercise good judgment which will be a good indicator of their future success.
3. My child will be injured –
We feel out of control when our children are out of our watchful eyes. From that first trip around the block on a bike to the first time they borrow the car we worry about their safety. Perhaps we had a bad experience we are trying to prevent them from having. Or perhaps we have a legitimate reason for our concern. Anxiety is a natural when your child tries something new.
First we need to recognize our children are going to get hurt. They will get scrapes on the sidewalk, and bumps on the head. I got a call from a nurse one day because, my son was walking in the hallway at school with his eyes closed, and walked into a wall. The nurse was more concerned about the goose egg on his head than he was. For the next week I had to explain to each doctor we saw (because of course I had his physical schedule for that week) and each friend we played with (because it was spring break) what happened. He still can't explain the game he was playing at the time, but we can laugh about it, now.
Next take a look at what you can do to prevent unnecessary injuries. Use of bike helmets, car seats, elbow and knee pads, and some good old fashioned common sense can reduce or eliminate the potential for life threatening harm. According to the CDC childhood injury and death rates are down 29% since 1999. Of those children who were hurt or injured most of those were in car accidents. Use of a car seat for infants reduces the risk of death by 71%, in toddlers the rate is 54%, and in school aged children 4 – 8 years old 45%. So exercise precaution when possible, but don't blame yourself for the occasional bump or bruise, kids will be kids.
4. My child will become ill –
From obesity to cancer we worry about how we will protect our child from the dangers of this world. We scrutinize everything from the food they eat to the shampoo we use in order to try to keep them safe. But in reality how much can we protect them without putting them in a bubble? Each family has to decide what battles they want to fight. You can eat hormone free, organic, non GMO, unprocessed food. You can even drink filtered water, and wear paraben free sunscreen. In the end , however, we have to accept that there are particulates and contaminants which can not be avoided. So what is the reality that something catastrophic will happen?
Once again my research lead me to the CDC. According to their website the percentage of 5-11 years old who are in excellent to very good health is 83.8%. The percentage of children who are considered obese is 17.7%. Compared this to the incidents of childhood cancer which are less than 2%. Even as it pertains to childhood illness it would appear that with some good judgment, some quality outdoor family time, and some help from your family physician most children can and do grow up to be happy, healthy adults.
5. My child will be bullied-
Bullying is a pervasive problem in our country. Some statistics state that as many as 1 in 4 children will be bullied. The rate goes up to 90% if that child is part of the LGBT community (www.stompoutbullying.org). And now with the rise of cyberbullying they are not necessarily even safe at home. So what is a parent to do? Rather than try to shield your child from the problem teach them the skills they will need to stop bullying before it starts. Some suggestions are:
Demonstrate assertive behavior in your daily activities
Teach your child social skills
Expose them to different places, people and experiences
Teach them to identify acts of aggression, and discrimination
Role play ways to respond to a bully
Teach them to be a helpful bystander
Identify adults they can trust when they are not with you
Share the rewards of personal achievement with them
Point out ways your child is valued by you and the community around them
Fear is a byproduct of the unknown. Sadly, you can not predict when your child will experience pain or disappointment. You can be there to support them during the tough times, and rejoice with them when they are a success. By allowing children to take some risks, and experience some disappointment you can teach them to weather adversity. They will realize they are bigger than life's challenges. Ultimately they will learn success is not a product of ones advantages or environment . It is a reflection of using their strengths to achieve their hopes and dreams. And until they can realize those dreams they have a wonderful support system, you.