5 Ways Not to Make Your Kids Paranoid
One of the fundamental tasks of a mom is to protect her children from danger. And it may seem that in this day and age there’s little else besides danger in the world. But the way you go about instructing and informing your children about those threats can make the difference between a child who’s aware and cautious, and causing anxiety in children.
1. Understand that you can and do pass your fears on to your children. Children are far more intuitive than we give them credit for being, and can read between the lines quite well. If you live in fear of disaster, they’ll pick up on that—even if it’s unspoken—and in many cases adopt it as their own outlook on life. Is that what you want for your children? Don’t just resolve to quit talking so much about what you fear, decide to actually let those fears go. If you find it impossible to make progress in this way, talking to a trusted counselor or minister may help.
2. Frame your instruction as a path to safety, not a way to avoid tragedy. There’s a positive and a negative way to approach almost any topic in the world. If you’re warning your child about the dangers of talking to or going with strangers, focus your instruction on the positive choice they should make and the positive outcome it should have, rather than dwelling on the horrific possibilities that come with the wrong choice. In other words, you might say, “If you’re ever lost in a store or in public, go to someone who works there, or a security guard or police officer. Those people can be trusted to help kids and keep them safe,” rather than, “If you’re lost and talk to a stranger, he might steal you and take you far away and you’d never see Mommy and Daddy again. Lots of strangers are bad people.” One piece of instruction equips your child, the other just scares him.
3. Keep your fears in perspective. The information age is a blessing in that it arms us with a great deal of useful news that can help us lead healthy, happy lives. The downside is that it can so inundate us with bad news, and inaccuracies, that we lose perspective on how probable (or improbable) a particular danger is. For instance, if we watch cable news shows that talk around the clock about a recent tragedy (like a shark attack at the beach) we may begin to feel that these things happen very frequently. But the statistical odds of it happening you or your child are actually minute. Keep it in perspective.
4. Realize how excessive fear can hurt—not help—your children. Understand that there is a cost associated with bringing up a child to be afraid of everything. He or she may be too scared to try new things, failing to realize great potential in a certain area, or may become so anxious that there are significant emotional health consequences. Remember: your goal is to equip your child to be able to tackle an uncertain world and thrive by overcoming obstacles and avoiding pitfalls. A child who’s scared of his shadow will likely never be all he can be.
5. Realize that you’re not in control. It’s overwhelming to think that you alone are responsible for protecting your children from everyone and everything bad. The fact is that you can’t. And this is the place where your faith in God will make a tremendous difference in your peace and effectiveness as a parent. Trusting in a loving God to be where you can’t and protect your child can free you from unnecessary worry and unproductive fretting. Do what you can, and trust God with the rest.
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