If your kids don’t answer your texts within three minutes, do you picture them comatose in the hospital?
Do you follow that up by sending eight additional texts, each more frantic than the last?
Is your next move to start checking accident reports and calling local hospitals?
When the kids finally turn up—safe, sound, and at curfew—do you lecture them for twenty minutes on the scare they gave you?
If so, don’t be surprised when the kids deliberately keep you waiting, just to get on your nerves the way you get on theirs. Anyway, worrying yourself into a hospital bed won’t help you protect them any better.
If you’d rather take the best possible care of your children and retain their respect and your emotional health, here are a few things you can do besides worry.
Of course, certain health and safety rules are nonnegotiable. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t let kids contribute their input before you make final decisions about bedtime, curfews, checking in by phone, and the boundaries for outdoor play. Really listen to the rationale behind their preferences; it’ll build their self-confidence and your confidence in them.
When possible danger involves those we love, it’s easy to let “what if’s” turn into “as good as happened” visualizations. Many people find it helpful to stop and ask themselves, “What are the chances that this thing I’m worrying about will really happen?” Often, they realize the chances are slim indeed—and the fear dissolves.
The fear, “What if something happens to my kids?” often comes with the assumption, “If only I were there to protect them every minute, I could be sure nothing would happen.” The hard truth is, even the best of parental supervision and influence can’t guarantee complete immunity from all harm. Yet, if you’re willing to accept it, that hard truth can also set you free: free from the pain of fretting and false guilt, free to release your children into the care of a higher power than yours, free to fully enjoy your family and your own life in the here and now.
Often, our love for our children is selfish: we think we want what’s best for them, when what we really want is the ego boost of seeing ourselves as perfect parents, or as parents who raised great achievers. Our influence counts for a lot, but ultimately our kids are unique and separate individuals—and so are we. Find your own interests and your own areas to achieve in, and you’ll reduce your anxiety by not reducing the full sum of your identity to “parent.” Plus, through your example and your willingness to let them be themselves, your kids will also grow up with fewer anxiety issues!