Managing That Constant Worry For Our Children
There’s hardly a mother unfamiliar with the feeling of horror when she sees her child hurt. Children trip and fall, they break things and cut themselves on the pieces, it’s part of their growing up and we know it but we can’t stop worrying and feeling guilty after they land on their heads yet another time. Later, they get their hearts broken and face a whole new array of dangers. Fighting this anxiety, which is a constant companion to the joys of motherhood, seems a lost cause. You can’t just reach inside yourself and stifle it forever. What’s possible, though is learning to manage it in order to avoid the stress it carries with it and, what’s worse, the risk of traumatizing your child into a phobia or other mental disorder.
The place to start is accepting the fact that it’s humanly impossible to protect children from absolutely everything. You can put the detergents on a high shelf and you can secure your house against serious injury, if you have a toddler, but you can’t pad all the floors and walls and remove all the edges from the furniture. You can tell your teenager you don’t like some of their friends but you can’t remove them from their environment. Toddlers fall and hit themselves, accept it; just make sure they don’t hit themselves too hard. Teens sometimes mingle with what we, parents, would consider bad sorts, but who said that our viewpoint is objective? Even if we’re right, we can’t, or at least shouldn’t, force them out of a relationship on the single grounds that we don’t approve of it, because, we may get the opposite of what we aimed for.
Don’t blame yourself for every bruise and every heartache. After all, you physically can’t keep your eyes on your child all the time. You are not a bad mother because you have allowed your daughter to cut her finger on a piece of paper, and you’re not a bad mother because you allowed your son to be rejected by the girl he had a crush on at school. Just think about your own childhood: did you go through it without a bruise, physical or emotional? These things happen and the sooner you accept this fact, the better. You can only do your best to spare them serious harm and you can do this by teaching them to fall properly or swim, for instance, or to value themselves enough not to get depressed by a rejection. This is part of your job as a mother and is fully within your powers
Talk about your anxieties, with other mothers and with your kids. Having a sympathetic ear to share your worries with is invaluable, since every mother feels, to a greater or lesser extent, the same way. Talking about it with your kids will, on the one hand, make them aware of your worries, which is good because no child wants his or her parents to be unhappy, and on the other, it will probably make them more careful, which is even better. The tricky bit here is to strike the balance between exaggerating and understating your anxiety. There is no universal recipe for this, as every child and every mother is unique. And if at any point you find it too difficult and could use the support of a counselor, don’t hesitate to seek it. Remember, our main duty as parents is not to eliminate all the dangers known and unknown that may lurk in the present or the future, it is to equip our kids with the knowledge and abilities to handle these dangers.