Are you confident that your children can look forward to happy, successful lives—or are you obsessed with fears that something terrible will happen? If the latter, you’re probably making your life, and your children’s, miserable with the black cloud of anxiety. Here are some habits for helping the sunshine of hope shine instead.
Responsible parenting means looking out for your children’s best interests, taking precautions to keep them safe, and teaching them to be responsible themselves. None of these are the same as trying to control everything personally, or fretting because you can’t.
If you’re always thinking about what might go wrong, you’ll talk yourself into believing that bad luck is always out to get your family in particular—an attitude that itself invites bad luck. Pay attention to what is going right today, and visualize good things happening tomorrow.
If you have a legitimate problem, do something about it. If you’re uncertain about the future, practice confidence-building activities with your family. Internalize the idea that, as a team or individually, you can handle whatever comes. Under no circumstances allow yourself to get into the habit of “just worrying”—that will only make you feel completely at the mercy of a cruel world’s whims.
Being positive and confident doesn’t mean trying to convince yourself that everything will always go “right”: unexpected and unwanted things happen to everyone. When they do happen, don’t give them more stress than they deserve, and don’t let your imagination blow them up into a tumbling chain of dominoes. (Getting a traffic ticket doesn’t mean the police will file an unfit-parent charge; a low test grade doesn’t mean your child will wind up unemployed and destitute.) Accept minor nuisances for what they are—minor nuisances—and you’ll free yourself to take remedial action (if any is needed) and move on.
If your overall relationship is characterized by empathy and understanding, you needn’t fear traumatizing anyone for life with a chance burst of temper. Of course, you should pay any apologies you owe, but do it with the attitude, “We all make mistakes; I’ve learned from this one.”
At age-appropriate levels, to be sure, but with an eye to getting their perspective and input. You may find that they have better insight into some issues than you do. At any rate, opening up the communications channels conveys the message, “I trust you and you can trust me”—which means your kids will seek your advice when legitimate challenges surface. And the open-communications approach will do more for everyone’s optimism than all the “what-if” and “just-in-case” thinking in the world.