From that moment when you first hold your child, you know you would do absolutely anything to keep them safe. That fierce protective instinct immediately turns to fear as you wonder how you can.
The role of a parent is the most important job in the world. The responsibility can be overwhelming. The fear can be paralyzing.
Parents tend to share the same overall fear — that their children will get hurt. Accidents, injuries, bullying, school shootings, a child’s fear of not feeling safe. They’re all threats to a child’s health and happiness.
As much as you might like to, you can’t wrap children in cotton and stow them away. Life’s experiences are how kids learn and grow into adults who might someday be parents themselves. They have to be in the world to get there.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt, father of six, once said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Confronting your worst fears as a parent is a far better tactic than hiding from them. Here are three things parents can stop being afraid of.
Not so long ago, parents’ biggest fears used to be about drugs, alcohol, and sex. These days, technology has supplanted those as the major source of anxiety for many. And technology is far easier for kids to get their hands on than illegal substances.
Technology provides 24/7 access to the internet and social media, taking stranger danger to a whole new level. A child’s curiosity and the web are a frightening combination. Parents don’t have to worry about the pedophile in the neighborhood they know. They fear a world of predators they can’t see.
Some parents confront the problem by not allowing their children computer access or a mobile phone. This isn’t a long-term solution. Parents should instead use tech as a teaching moment, preparing their kids for the inevitable online lifetime.
Consider getting a safe cell phone for kids. They provide all the advantages of keeping the family connected without the worry of connecting to the internet. Furthermore, no accommodation for apps means no social media and all the potential risks that come with it.
With a cell phone designed for the younger set, parents can teach kids the value of mobile phones. They can reinforce the concept that having one is a privilege, not a right. They can impart early lessons about being responsible and the consequences if they aren’t.
A child’s unfettered access to technology is a reasonable fear for a parent. Online predators, inappropriate websites, and cyberbullying should be concerns. Supervising and limiting online access and using parental controls are simply good parenting.
Using the right technology wisely will prepare kids for real life and all its risks. Facing down your own fear of tech’s dark side is a great place to start.
Bullying is probably as old as humankind. In the 21st century, there is the added threat of cyberbullying. Kids can be extremely cruel, especially when they don’t have to confront another kid in person.
According to the CDC, 19.5% of kids in grades 9-12 were bullied on school property in 2019. Some 15.7% were bullied electronically. Bullied kids are far more likely to suffer extreme anxiety, perform poorly in school, engage in self-harm, and consider suicide.
Kids who bully others don’t fare much better. In the short term, they have poor academic performance and are at greater risk of substance abuse and isolation. Long-term effects include increased risk to commit domestic abuse and be unemployed.
A parent’s fear of their child being bullied or to be a bully is justified. However, there are things parents can do to help their kids understand bullying and stand up to it.
Cyberbullying employs social media platforms, text and messaging apps, chat rooms, email, and online gaming communities. Controlling your child’s access to these channels and monitoring them is wise. You will be able to catch cyberbullying quickly and address it right away.
To nip bullying at school in the bud, parents need to have open lines of communication with teachers and counselors. Moreover, they need to communicate openly and honestly with their kids. The response to “How was school today?” needs to be more substantive than “OK.”
It’s critical that parents identify bullying quickly and intervene right away while remaining calm. Parents, like kids, shouldn’t back down from bullies in fear. Understanding what bullying is and making it clear that it will not be tolerated are essential to confronting the problem and your fears.
We live in an uncertain world. Without a how-to manual, parents often lack confidence in their child-rearing abilities. They wonder whether they’re up to the task of providing their kids with what they need to be good humans.
Confidence in yourself as a parent and in your kids is the first step toward confronting an uncertain world. You fail your kids if you think you’re not a good enough parent or your kids aren’t good enough. You also fail them if you worry about what other people think about you or your kids.
Internet connectivity and information on demand has created a smaller world. Social media feeds an unhealthy tendency for people to compare themselves to others. Feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy can lead to overprotective parenting.
How parents respond to their fears often determines how safe children feel in an uncertain world. Overt parental responses to fear can scare kids rather than empower them. Parents need to find the confidence to respond reasonably to those fears and use them to teach, not frighten.
Attempting to shield your child from every potentially dangerous thing won’t make them resilient. You can be near and observant, but kids need to make mistakes to learn from them. They also need to be free to overcome danger on their own when they can and celebrate that success.
Confronting your fears as a parent certainly isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your parents likely didn’t have to worry about online predators and social media bullies. There’s often little comparison to the situations parents are confronted with in this brave new world.
Let’s face it. It can be a challenge to be an intrepid parent, and kids can be merciless. Just take a deep breath, and — whatever you do — don’t show any fear.