Magazine article Work & Family Life

'Of Course, I Worry. Isn't That My Job as a Parent?'

Magazine article Work & Family Life

'Of Course, I Worry. Isn't That My Job as a Parent?'

Article excerpt

I used to think that a good mother was supposed to worry. After all, how can you love your children and not worry about them? My mother worried about me - all of the time. In fact, I grew up equating love with worry. I have even accused my husband at times of not worrying enough.

I have a vivid memory of the dread I felt when our 3-year-old son was diagnosed with chicken pox, because I'd read an article about a child who had died from complications. Yes, indeed, fear can be a destructive emotion!

How to love with less worry

My son is 32 now and I've learned that parents don't stop worrying when their kids grow up. But I've also learned how to love with much less worry. I'm able to give my children the freedom to make choices and take some risks. Instead of rushing in with advice and warnings, I've come to see that teaching children to live in our fears and ignore their own feelings is an unhealthy way to navigate life's challenges.

Whether it's worrying about health, safety, school work, friends, or career choices, when we give in to negative emotions, we hurt ourselves and create anxiety for our children. And our worry does not protect them, in any case. This lesson was reinforced for me on 9/11.

A lesson learned

In her third year of college, our daughter told us that she wanted to spend a semester in India, Nepal and Tibet. My husband and I said no, and tried to talk her into going to a more "civilized" place. But she impressed us with vision and helped us move through our fears. We asked questions of the college and eventually felt comfortable enough to say yes.

On the morning of 9/11, I got dressed for my job as director of a child care center a few blocks from Ground Zero-with no idea that my world was about to explode. While I was evacuating our building, my daughter was safe in Northern India.

The tables quickly turned during those early hours after she heard about the chaos in New York and tried in vain to reach me to make sure that I was OK. My lesson: all the worry in the world cannot keep anyone safe. Our true power lies in trying to shift scary emotions into more positive ones - and that shift comes from within.

Watch for mixed messages

Many parents warn their young children to never speak to a stranger, and they spin out scary scenarios. Because or their fears, parents pass on too much information. But I've also watched these same parents meet acquaintances in the market place and say their child, "Say hello to Mrs. Smith."

Young children may not be sure who is who is not a stranger. …

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