Do parental fears take up way too much space in your head?
Before I had my first child over 33 years ago, I had no idea there were so many things to be afraid of in life. Parenting opened up a whole new world of things that could go wrong, things that gave me a lot to worry about, and things that caused me to toss and turn at night.
Over the years of raising three kids, those parental fears have changed, but believe me when I say that when your kids are grown, you will still find things to worry about.
Looking back over the years of parenting, I can identify some basic parental fears that most parents can relate to. Here’s how I handled them then, and how I’m still handling some of them now.
Fears about Safety and Health
Beginning with fears for our infants with SIDs, there are so many things to find worrisome with our kids’ health. Every time my kids got sick and didn’t recover as quickly as I thought they should, my mind went down the path of “could there be something more serious going on?”
When your kids play sports and start to drive, there’s always fears of injury and accidents. I can’t tell you how many late and/or sleepless nights I had worrying about my kids’ safety, whether it was simply waiting for them to make curfew, or worrying about them traveling through the night by car or plane.
As parents, there is really only so much we can do and we need to take control over those things that we CAN control–feeding our kids healthy foods, seeing they get exercise, taking them for regular checkups, and keeping them away from unhealthy situations with strangers or even family members.
But we cannot put our kids in a bubble and there is no way to control every single scenario that they enter. There comes a point when we either learn to let go or we try to hang on too tightly, end up stressing ourselves out, and damaging our relationship with our kids in the process.
I’ve had to let go many times over the years and am still practicing that. I CANNOT control everything my kids face and trying to alleviate all fears and risks in this life will drive my kids and myself crazy.
Fears about Finances
Kids are dang expensive. And the older they get, the more expensive they become until it culminates in the biggest expenses of all, college and/or a wedding.
Finances have always been my worry of choice. Still is, if I let it. But learning to set a budget, and stick to that budget, has helped me lessen those fears.
Somehow, our kids made it through college and we are fine. Somehow, two of our kids are married, and we are still fine. I’m wondering how we are going to afford wedding #3, but worrying about it won’t do any good either.
Be wise with your money. Teach your kids the value of work and setting a budget. Let go of things that are stressing your budget that you really don’t have to keep. Get financial counseling, if you need it.
Whatever you do, don’t put so much focus on money that it becomes an issue. Let me explain. I have a friend who was raised in a home where money was very tight and as a result she grew up being overly focused on how much things cost and how much money they had. It irritated her kids and they often made fun of her being a “tight wad”.
As a parent, you do not want your legacy to be one that is always concerned about “can we afford this?” There are ways to be good stewards and budget without making money a constant topic of concern.
Fears that Our Kids Will Not be Emotionally Strong or Happy
These types of parental fears often drove me to tears as I watched my kids go through emotional struggles. Quite honestly, they drove me to pray a lot! Every parent wants their kids to be happy and when we see them go through depression, friend problems, or struggles at school and in sports, it is heart-wrenching.
That’s usually when the urge to fix-it takes over, but that is not the best answer for your child. Your job and mine is to walk through the hard times with our kids, love them through it, and provide guidance when appropriate, NOT to eliminate the problem from their lives.
A few years back, I watched one of my kids go through an emotional struggle that nearly wrecked me, but there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix it. Instead, I listened, prayed, loved, and supported her. It was really really hard. But I’m happy to report that today that same child is happy, strong, and emotionally healthy because of the journey.
If that’s you right now, remember that your child needs your love and support more that they need immediate answers or parental manipulation. As a parent, if you are struggling with this and need someone to help you, please reach out for a free phone call.
Fears That Our Kids Won’t be Able to Launch
With today’s uncertain economy, this is a very real fear, and I’ve experienced having kids come back home to live after college. I watched them struggle to find jobs that would support them. One by one, they cut the apron strings until finally they were all financially independent. It didn’t happen immediately right out of college, but it did happen.
Meantime, I seriously wondered if we’d ever be free of having to help support them!
The best way to avoid this fear is to plan early by instilling in your kids a good work ethic and not raising them with an entitled attitude. Don’t give them every thing they want, make them earn money, and show them the value of being good stewards of that money.
When my kids turned 16, they did not automatically get a brand new car. The first one got a very very used one and had to share it with the second one. The third one got the hand-me-down when the other two had moved on to other cars. They all had to pay for their own gas.
It could be that you may have to wean your kids slowly off of your financial support if they are struggling to support themselves, but as long as they are making progress in the direction of total independence, be patient. It helped me to remember how my parents and my husband’s parents helped us get on our feet. Because of the way we raised them–not entitled, good work ethic–they wanted to be independent as soon as they could and hated owing us anything.
If your kids have come back and are struggling to launch, sit down and help them come up with a plan for a job and for finances, set boundaries and expectations and hold them accountable. Then, let go of your fears because they could very easily taint your relationship with that young adult. They will be on their way at some point and you will either be rejoicing at their accomplishment or grieving the loss of having them around so much!
I’m sure you have other parental fears that I’ve not mentioned. But in order to keep sane, it might be good to remember this well-known serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.