When it comes to parenting, worrying is part of the job description. So what are the main causes of parental concern? It usually hits us in three main areas. Here’s what they are and some thoughts on what you can do about it.
WORRY 1: I’m worried that my child won’t get the opportunities and the education needed to reach his potential
To some extent, all parents worry that their children won’t get the things they need to keep up in a competitive world. The combination of tough economic and political climates and internal worries really exacerbates this anxiety. This is made worse by the mammoth child industry waiting in the wings and looking to take advantage of things by marketing multiple products and resources to parents in order to combat (or cash-in) on this concern. Marketers fuel this fear claiming that “educational” toys and products will fast track your child to success. We want to do all that we can and so we buy into these dynamics.
But when is it that the worry is a justifiable reality-based issue and when is it that the external world is tapping into an existing internal fear that belongs to the adult and not the child? Often we worry that because we aren’t making ends meet or are struggling to get what we need ourselves, that this will automatically mean our kids will battle with this issue too. Many times this is not the case and truthfully there is no need to panic or overcompensate with expensive toys and early learning activities. In fact, sometimes if your child has a little less, they will become more resourceful and use their minds more creativity. Besides, a little frustration and delayed gratification never hurt anyone, it only ever made them more resilient.
WORRY 2: I’m worried I won’t do a good enough job as a parent
From the moment we had to guess how much milk our babies were taking in during a feed, us parents began the relentless worry that our kids aren’t getting enough nourishment from us (emotional nourishment, that is). And so we began a lifetime of constant worry that there is always more we should be giving our kids: More time, more thought, more attention! We are conditioned from a young age that ‘what you put in’ directly relates to ‘what you get out’. This assumption worked well when we were at school, in the workplace and even at times socially. And then we had kids and suddenly the rules changed. The trouble is that when it comes to kids, ‘trying hard’ never feels like enough and we never really know if our children are getting enough of what they need from us on an emotional level. Leaving parents with the constant dread that they don’t know how they are doing and if their kids will turn out ok.
The irony is that parents only ever really need to be ‘good enough’ to be successful caregivers. In an earlier article I reminded parents that ironically, being the perfect ever-present parent is not only unnecessary but it’s also unhelpful. Rather a ‘good enough’ parent is someone who consistently shows up but who also fails their child in ordinary ways. This actually serves our kids in the long run because it is when we fail them that they have the opportunity to form their own ideas and reach into themselves to build resilience.
WORRY 3: I’m worried my child won’t fit in or will get picked on.
Bullying is a really worrying issue for parents. It’s been linked to long-term self-esteem issues, poor performance at school and depression. The problem is that we are not there on the playground and can’t fight their battles for them. Even worse, bullying is often subtle and hard to track. Fortunately there is an increase in awareness around bullying and many schools have formal policies on this issue.
On the home front it’s important to understand if your child is prone to being bullied or to be the bully. If your child feels controlling or angry and is bullying a friend at school, they need to be given an appropriate therapeutic outlet to understand their frustrations so they don’t take it out on someone else. If your child is the bullied one, it could be (as it is with many cases) that the child is unknowingly opening themselves up to being bullied because on an unconscious level they feel like they deserve it. So if your child is battling with bullying in either role, the first step is to stop it playing out at school by reporting it. Then the next crucial layer is to help the child investigate what the dynamic is evoking inside them and locate the source. This is really specialised work and families may need help dealing with it. So if this is the case you should seek guidance from a psychoanalytic play therapist in order to get to the bottom of things.
The bottom line
I once read that being a parent means taking the decision to forever live with your heart outside your chest. Not only that, but we have to forever manage the tricky balance of internal and external pressures, all while letting them live their own lives. Perspective is going to be key here so don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional or talk it over with a level-headed friend. Hopefully in the end the worry can be put back in its box so that you can get on with the tricky business of just being a parent who is doing the best that they can.