90% of what we worry about never happens.
See? Worrying works!
Are you worried about your teenager? Here’s how to prevent “the worries”.
Let’s talk about how to prevent “the worries”. It is important to get this under control sooner rather that later. Here’s an example of why this is important.
My mom likes to call me. Often.
My mom lives in Florida – about 1000 miles away from me. She spends almost all of her time watching political pundits and weather reports. She fears she will miss the latest important “breaking news” that informs the globe of impending doom and disaster.
She worries that I will be oblivious to said impending doom and disaster.
Hence, the frequent phone calls:
“Kim! I hope you are hunkered down! A tornado is coming your way!” (The storm is three states away.)
“Kim! Did you know Illinois has ticks? They are deadly. You cannot go outside!” (Um, yeah.)
“Kim! They think “the big one” will hit California very soon. Don’t make any travel plans to go there.” (Not even on my radar.)
What she doesn’t realize, and what I have repeatedly tried to explain, is that I have a magical device called a smart phone. I’m pretty informed about catastrophic calamities headed my way. Also, I am really, really old and have somehow managed to stay alive all these decades.
Yet, I find these phone calls somewhat endearing because, as much as I hate to admit it, I get it! Once a parent, always a parent. The care, concern, and yes, the worrying, never goes away.
Parents worry about their children in varying degrees. Plain and simple.
When it comes to our children’s health and safety, there are plenty of circumstances that cause us to worry.
When enraptured first-time parents delicately hold their cherished new baby, they are often dumbstruck with worry: “What the heck am I supposed to do with this creature?” and “Am I qualified to raise this tiny human into adulthood?”
(Yes. Yes, you are.)
As our children grow, so do the worries. Our concerns morph and change in direct correlation to their physical, emotional, and social development. In fact, I thought my worries would be over when they went off to college. How wrong I was!
Eventually, our worries revolve around our teenagers and their sexuality. We want our kids to avoid unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. We worry about our kids making really bad decisions. We worry our child may “swipe right” and meet an unsavory character while looking for romance.
Parents can (sort of) prevent the worries!
Worry-prevention results from engaging in on-going conversations with our kids about things we know will eventually worry us. It is important to take time to have important and sometimes uncomfortable conversations throughout their young lives. By being proactive, we can diminish our worries, even if just a little.
For example, we teach our littlest cherubs the anatomical names for all of their body parts. We acknowledge and help define their feelings. We help them navigate consent by giving them permission to say ‘no’ to Grandma’s bear hugs and offer alternatives. When we have ongoing conversations about consent, personal boundaries, and respect from the time they are born, we help them develop lifelong interpersonal skills. It becomes embedded in their very being. See? No need to worry. You did the difficult work already!
Personal safety is an ongoing concern of parents. Unfortunately, the decision-making part of their brains is not fully developed. Your kids need help. Parents can help kids preemptively think through potential tricky situations and consider how they may react appropriately. Now, I’m not saying this always works, but it does help form the synapses in the brain that help make wise decisions. Or at least pretty good decisions. See? No need to worry. Again, you did the work by helping develop decision-making skills.
Worried parents and last minute advice to teenagers.
We often bark last-minute advice as our newly licensed teens are pulling out of the driveway, “Drive safely!” “Make good decisions!” That works about as well as my husband yelling after me, “Don’t spend any more money on shoes!” Those words float around our heads like delicate butterflies drifting away on a breezy summer day. Poof! Gone!
Instead, have conversations that matter throughout their childhood, so we can rest assured we did everything in our power as parents to keep them as safe as possible. We cannot fully protect them from the world, just as our parents are not able to keep us from harm as grown-ass adults. But we can give them tools to be resilient humans. Kind humans. Respectful humans. It is okay to see your kids fly the nest and perhaps fall a couple of times. I know from experience that watching our kids fall is often more painful for us than for them.
We can’t always be there for our kids. In fact, it’s not our job to be. It’s our job to let them fly. No. It’s our job to watch them soar.
If it is true that most of the things we worry about never happen, and I do believe it to be, feel free to keep worrying. However, that energy is better directed towards helping your kids develop skills that allow them to navigate this crazy world into adulthood.
Don’t worry: Your kids are going to be just fine.
If you will excuse me, I need to make a phone call. I heard that a big storm is headed to Hawaii. I want to make sure my daughter is prepared.