Children are great imitators. And the old saying that behavior is ‘caught, not taught’ is absolutely true.
As parents, we do our best to teach our children well: we (hopefully) focus on things like good manners, and respect for others, and behavior that reinforces everything we’d like our children to become.
But there’s one thing we all do pretty frequently, and it’s a life skill. A coping mechanism. And all too often, we do it without even realizing that we’re teaching our children the very same habit – often unconsciously.
We worry about choices, about the future, about money, about personal safety, about crime, about relationships. And a million other things, too. We worry about being late. About what ‘other people’ will think of us. About the state of the country we live in. The decline of schools, the safety of our kids.
And while all this is happening… our children are watching. And learning how to worry.
THERE’S A LOT MORE TO WORRY ABOUT THESE DAYS
A recent comparative US study mentioned some of the things that children had listed as their number one worry in surveys dating back almost a century.
Here are 4 of them, at 20-year intervals. Ready for this?
1930: Failing a test at school.
1950: Being thought of as part of the ‘bad crowd’.
1970: The possibility of parents divorcing.
1990: A parent losing a job.
Wow. Tough, huh?
Today, with the help of social media, CNN, and levels of social pressure unparalleled in human history, your children have got a LOT to worry about. And, paradoxically, they worry about worrying – because they’re not being taught how to deal with it.
3 SIMPLE SOLUTIONS TO WORRYING
1. Shield your children from excessive ‘worry topics’.
Without being overbearing, try to insulate your children from things like scary media stories, predictions of disasters, and worries about money. Remember, the way you react to these things is the way they’ll react, too. Even your facial expressions can betray your own fear and worry, so make a habit of keeping your own worry ‘out of sight’ when your children are around.
A quick side note: doing this often rewires your own thinking, too, and you suffer less stress by actually putting the worry into perspective.
2. Teach your children to problem-solve.
Fear is a result of helplessness (real or imagined) – and one of the best things you can teach your children is that action and purpose, combined with faith in a positive outcome, is one of the best ways to banish worry. Don’t just talk about it, either: do it. Job insecurity, or a lousy boss? Get entrepreneurial, and start that part-time business you always dreamed of. Relationship stress? Reinvent yourself, and become a better partner. Health worries? Start where you are, and get exercising.
Do it. And they’ll learn to do it, too.
3. Cherish your children.
Love (which is also an action!) drives away fear, and is extremely powerful. If your children know that Dad or Mom has their back, and makes time for them, and will absolutely stand by them no matter what, then worries have a way of, well… dissipating. If they’re in a safe emotional space, then external pressures are immediately and radically reduced.
How do you show them that you cherish them? How do you earn emotional trust? There’s only one currency you can buy trust with: time.
And in a world where we always seem to be so busy, time poverty is a reality for many of us. Time is the one thing we never seem to have enough of. But our children are not just another task, or a distraction: they are our most important legacy into the future. Investing time with them – quality, eye-contact time – is incredibly important.
Reassure them. Lead by example. And remind them (and yourself!) that statistically, around 95% of the things we worry about never happen anyway.
Share the love, and have an incredible day!
In my next post, I’ll be sharing 5 easy ways to reduce your child’s stress.
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