One of a mom’s fundamental tasks is to protect her children. But what do you do when you are overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty? Sometimes, it seems like danger is everywhere and the worry is pressing hard. But how you go about instructing and informing your children about those dangers can mean the difference between a child who’s aware and cautious and one who is anxious and worried. No mom wants to make her kids paranoid, and a beautiful gift we can give them is a sense of peace. But how, when it feels like there’s just so much to be afraid of?
It starts with taking little steps in the right direction. So here are 5 things you can do not to make your kids paranoid. Start focusing on one and watch how not only your children find relief, but you also can breathe a little more easily.
1. Understand that your kids are listening and absorbing your fear.
Children are far more intuitive than we give them credit for and can read between the lines quite well. If you live in fear, they’ll pick up on that—even if it’s unspoken—and in many cases, adopt it as their own outlook on life. Moms, we must give our kids something better than worry! Don’t just resolve to quit talking so much about what you fear. Decide to actually let those fears go. Try writing your worries down on a piece of paper in the morning and throwing it in the trash. 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, go to someone who works there. Those people can be trusted.” Don’t say, “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 children. The other just scares them.
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 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 believe that these things happen frequently. But the statistical odds of them happening to you or your child are actually minute. Keep it in perspective. Limiting our time in front of screens will help protect us from making ourselves and our kids paranoid.
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. Children who are scared of their own shadows likely never will be all they can be.
5. Realize that (thank God) you’re not in control of everything.
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 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 to protect your child can free you from unnecessary worry and unproductive fretting. Do what you can and trust God with the rest. If you need a good starting point, check out our free printable prayers for moms.
What helps you keep your paranoia under control?