Parenting: the toughest job you never trained for. The pressure we put on ourselves as parents to ‘get it right,’ whatever that means, can leave us bumping up against anxiety at every turn. But allowing our worries to intrude on our parenting can backfire. Researchers at the University of Arizona found kids of over-involved parents had poorer coping skills and a greater sense of entitlement. The good news? We’re better parents when we worry less and let go more. Here are 10 things you can drop from your list of worries.
1. You’ll forget a promise, a birthday, a playdate. Any time we fail to remember something our kids are counting on us for can be an occasion for guilt, but it happens. When you do forget, do your best to make it up to your child without going overboard, and ask them to help you come up with a new strategy for remembering, and then follow that strategy.
2. You don’t spend enough time with your child (or you don’t spend enough one-on-one time with your child). Most parents think this from time to time, unless they’re home with their kids 24/7. When that guilt springs up, it may be signaling a need for change in your schedule. Pull out the calendar and plan a special date with your child, or look for new ways to maximize the time you do have with them.
3. Your child does not have the latest, greatest [fill-in-the-blank]. As a parent, it is easy to feel deficient when you can’t (or won’t) give your kids all that they ask for in life. But consider what you do provide for your child: food, clothing, security, love. Banish the guilt by working together as a family to regularly recount all you should be grateful for.
4. Your child’s diet. Is your child growing? Are they healthy? Do they have enough energy? Then you’re probably feeding them well enough. If you’re truly concerned about health, track your family’s diet. Search out healthier alternatives and gradually introduce changes. We could all use a tweaking of our food habits on occasion.
5. You’ll miss your child’s game/recital/conference/performance. Unless this is a habitual occurrence, join the ranks of parents everywhere in your distress. It’s difficult to be multiple places at one time and chances are you’re going to miss an event. But if you’re present for your child in the everyday moments, pat yourself on the back; you’re doing well. And if you know you’ll miss the special time beforehand, have someone record it, and replay it later with your child.
6. You sometimes want to do your own thing, minus the kids. This doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. Rather, it is a reminder that you are a human being with your own interests and needs. Taking time away from the kids isn’t a sign that you don’t love them, it’s a sign that you love them enough to want to be your best self when you’re with them by refueling in ways most suited to you. Occasionally, those ways don’t include the kids.
7. Your child won’t thrive at school, in friendships, in extracurricular activities. Each of us meets our match in one arena of life or another. Kids are no different. Remember any challenge that comes your child’s way provides an opportunity for growth. Do your best to support them. If necessary, provide extra time and resources for a season. Then demonstrate your confidence by encouraging your child to navigate on their own or with assigned helpers using the skills they have been taught.
8. That mistake you made will scar them for life. You forgot to send treats on their birthday. You didn’t know the school gym uniform was mandatory. We all goof up from time to time. And sure, your child may not forget. Instead, it could end up being the source of laughs for years to come. A “remember the time?” moment.
9. The unthinkable will happen. It’s hard not to see headlines about the latest tragedy and not fear for your own family. But those worries don’t serve anyone. Remind yourself to control what you can: provide a safe environment for your family and educate your child on how to stay safe in a variety of settings. Let go of the rest.
10. You’re not doing a good enough job as a parent. The fact that you worry about this at all is a strong indicator you’re an invested parent. You are giving it your best. Trust that, in spite of any failings, your child knows you are trying. Your love and concern counts for a whole lot more than you realize.
Author Elizabeth Stone once said, “Making the decision to have a child, it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” The vulnerability of being a parent means we will always be concerned. But when we transform those worries into action, our whole family benefits, and we move further toward being the parents we hope to be.
Lara is a parenting journalist and mom of three girls who give her plenty of opportunities to practice letting go of worry.
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