DISCONNECT YOUR PANIC BUTTONS
If you worry about your kids all the time; if you visualize the absolute worst when they don’t answer your texts within five minutes; if you literally sweat when they want to try something new and independent—you probably have oversensitive mental “panic buttons,” and it’s probably causing unnecessary stress for you and the kids. Here are a few common panic buttons, with suggestions for disconnecting them and wiring in healthier replacements.
Panic Button #1. “The World Is Full of Threats.”
One downside of the Information Age is that it’s so good at helping us find new things to worry about. A cat can hardly sneeze in Tokyo anymore without being labeled the first harbinger of a pandemic in Topeka.
- Limit yourself to thirty minutes of news input per day—avoiding unsubstantiated and “doomsaying” sources.
- Take a proactive approach: focus less on what might happen and more on building your family’s confidence and problem-solving skills.
- Practice being mindful and alert to immediate surroundings: when you (and your children) are obviously strong and attentive, trouble does its share in avoiding you.
Panic Button #2. “My Kids Will Ruin Their Lives.”
It’s scary to see your children aspiring to dangerous goals (dangerous in terms of physical, financial, or social risks). It’s as scary when they seem content with no goals at all. Either way, you can get panicked into constant nagging—which can seriously hurt the parent–child relationship.
- Give up the presumed right to plan your kids’ life paths for them—whether they’re in high school or still in diapers.
- Get to know your kids for who they are—what motivates them, where their passions lie—and allow them freedom to follow their own instincts.
- Accept apparent side roads as part of the journey. The post-high-school year “wasted” on travel can become the first step toward a Nobel Peace Prize.
Panic Button #3. “I Could Emotionally Scar My Kids.”
The opposite extreme from the parent who dictates “the road my kids must take,” is the one who’s too afraid of “hurting their feelings” to offer any direction. A life with no boundaries is as dangerous as a life with no freedom.
- Know your values (honesty, kindness, etc.), emphasize them; and live by them yourself, especially when it’s difficult.
- Have solid “house rules” (preferably discussed and voted on by all family members) and clear understanding of consequences for violation. Make exceptions (for your kids or yourself) only for sound and clearly understood reasons.
- Present “chores” as a matter of everyone pitching in as a team member helping things run smoothly. And consider everyone’s preferences and skills before assigning duties.
Panic Button #4. “An Imperfect Life Isn’t Worth Living.”
Too many parents regard a 99 percent score as a catastrophe. The more we focus on mistakes, the more mistakes are made—and the more our children identify with them.
- Make a point of noticing what your kids get right. They’ll build on that foundation to do better and better.
- Acknowledge your own mistakes, and let your children see you being content to be imperfect.
- Celebrate the value of a life filled with learning and growing. The best panic preventative is working for the future while living fully in the present!