Germs, accidents, college, drugs, sex… the list of worries for a parent these days seems to be never ending. It’s normal to want to nurture and protect your child. But if you worry about your kids too much, you could be doing more harm than good.
The Real World
Let’s face it, the world is a dangerous place. Kids get sick and hurt every day. The dangers our children face can sometimes take on life-threatening, or at least life-changing consequences, even just at school. But how do you cope with this in a healthy way?
Examine Your Past
If you feel like you worry too much, it’s worth taking a look at your past for some explanations. For example, if your parents were divorced, this could be part of the reason you worry so much today. On the other hand, if your parents were overprotective, you could now be imitating their behavior. A toxic family environment may also have programmed worry into your personality.
Any type of trauma, abuse or neglect in your past has a profound impact on how you see the world today. If you felt threatened all the time, then worry is a natural reaction. Identifying the source of your fears helps you manage them in a healthier way.
As a parent, you’re responsible for the safety of your child. But does excessive worry help you? Exaggerated worry may lead your child to be paralyzed with anxiety now or later as an adult.
Whose suffering do you want to prevent?
You don’t want to see them suffer, right? But at what cost? If your kid decided to be an attorney, would you buy a fake diploma to avoid the suffering that comes with law school? Of course not, but life is the same way. In the school of life we grow when we learn how to navigate our trials.
The more challenging question might be: Is my desire to avoid my kid’s suffering actually a desire to avoid my own suffering?
Unnecessary suffering should be avoided, but when we don’t allow our kids to grow up they end up suffering much more later in life. This problem can even get handed down to our children’s children.
One common example is to constantly meet the financial needs of your child. You might think, “Well, once they get on their feet, then I won’t have to support them anymore.” We certainly must accompany our kids as they learn to fend for themselves, but sometimes we end up supporting them too much.
A young bird never expected to leave the nest and look for food will never appreciate the value – and joy – of flight. If children never learn the value of work and money, they’ll have a distorted view of the world for the rest of their lives.
But what if they get hooked on drugs or get (someone) pregnant?
Again, big risks and dangers are real. So accept them. No amount of worry will eliminate these possibilities. But dialog with your kids can help reduce them. If you come at them with exaggerated fear, they’ll either copy your worry habits or simply tune you out. But if you attempt to engage with them at their level, as well as with sincerity about yourself, then they just might think twice.
When bad things happen
Sooner or later, your kid will get sick or hurt. That’s the nature of life, and 100% prevention is impossible. Some use this as fuel to increase their worry efforts even more. But maybe it’s better to look at things from the perspective of those who have lost their children to accident or illness.
These parents obviously suffer tremendously. But after going through the process of grief, some eventually come to a stage of acceptance. Those most at peace with their loss understand a profound truth that all parents can benefit from: Your child has belonged to God from the beginning.
How prayer helps
When you pray for your kids, let out all your worries to God without watering it down. Let him know exactly how much you worry. And as you continue in prayer, he’ll help you to cope with your fears in a mature and rational way. He shows you that his plan for their lives is not under your control. You certainly have a role to play, but it’s not the main role.
Also, ask to be healed of your past hurt that might be affecting how you see your child. Let God’s love heal old wounds that interfere with having a healthy relationship with your son or daughter.
The most excellent way
The best way to understand and deal with suffering is through love, not control. This is the lesson Jesus revealed to us on the cross. Worry will never get rid of suffering, but love will conquer fear. Fear makes us think and act irrationally. So let God cast out your fears. Let him set you free to see clearly. Then you can understand your true role in your child’s life – a protective and guiding servant that is privileged to walk with them for a part of their beautiful life.
Image source (modified).