It's natural to feel concerned about your child when you hear news reports about tragedies that involve kids -- from abductions to accidents to abuse. Worrying about all the bad things that could possibly happen won't help, and letting go of some worries may have big benefits for your child.
Worrying about some things, like your child having a bike accident, can be a good thing. It motivates you to teach your child safety lessons such as the importance of always wearing a helmet. Excessive worrying, especially about remote possibilities like an act of school violence, can be crippling. Your child may "catch" your anxieties and become fearful herself. Or you may try so hard to protect her that she can't develop the independence she needs to thrive.
Take charge of the things you can control and let go of the things you can't
As parents, we all have to accept and live with the fact that some things are beyond our control. Learn to take charge of the things you can control, and let go of worrying excessively about the rest. Here are some common worries parents have for their children at different developmental stages and positive steps to take to help reduce worry:
- Fear and worry about stranger danger. You can't keep your young child away from all strangers, but you can teach your child to be aware of potentially dangerous situations. Teach your children the phrase "No, Go, Yell, Tell," the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) advises. The NCPC explains, "If in a dangerous situation, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can, and tell an adult."
- Worry about drugs and alcohol. While there are no guarantees when it comes to kids experimenting, ongoing conversations about drugs and alcohol help reduce the risk your child will develop a substance abuse problem. Research shows that the main reason kids don't use alcohol, drugs, or tobacco is because of their parents. Parents are the leading influence in their child's decision not to drink, according to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The sooner you start having the conversations, the better.
- Fear and worry that your child will be hurt by an act of violence or a natural disaster.The best way for children and adults alike to keep such fears in check is to limit media exposure. Repeatedly watching news reports on violent events or disasters can feed your anxieties. If you turn off the TV and don't visit online news feeds after such events, you may feel less anxious.
- Worry your child isn't keeping up and won't succeed or get into the "right" school."There seems to be a perception that there are 'the right' courses to take, 'the right' activities to be involved in, and 'the right' colleges/universities to attend," Missouri school counsellor Sharon Sevier told U.S. News & World Report. It isn't true. And the pressure to attend a certain school or type of school "can really impact a student's stress level," Sevier says.
If you feel overwhelmed with worries about your child
- Talk with someone about your worries. You might talk with a trusted relative or friend. Describe your worries. Ask if they seem realistic.
- Learn ways to manage your worries. You don't want your child to be affected by your own feelings of worry and anxiety. You'll find helpful tips in the article Dealing With Persistent Worry.
- Seek professional help if your worrying persists. You may have good reason to be worried about your child -- a sense that something is wrong. Perhaps your child is abusing drugs or is the victim of bullying. Start by talking with your child. If you have concerns about your child's well-being, also make an appointment to speak with the school guidance counsellor or psychologist, or with a therapist or counsellor. Get help for yourself, too, if your worries are affecting your relationship with your child.
© LifeWorks Canada Ltd 2017