It happens almost immediately. Sometimes in the first minutes after your child is born, but definitely in the first month. Every parent is cursed with the paralyzing, overpowering fear that whatever you do to protect your child in this life will not be enough to keep them alive. Parents deal with these feelings in different ways, not all of them positive.
I was looking for a medical term for this fear. The closest condition that I could find is Thanatophobia: Fear of Death.
Symptoms Of The Parent Curse
Placing your children in a bubble will only keep them safe to a point. Parents that are in constant fear over their child getting hurt or experiencing disappointment are likely to harm their children more than help them. Clearly it is our job as parents to protect our kids, but to not let them experience anything just so they stay safe is going a bit too far.
Health is another area in which overprotective parents tend to plant their flag. With all the medical testing and plethora of online medical literature, fearful parents can let their imaginations run wild! I wonder how many different diagnoses pediatricians hear from overprotective parents for a child that has a cough.
Anxiety is the physical manifestation of fear. No parent is immune from at least some anxiety. Ask any parent in any part of the United States what they thought about when they first heard about the Columbine shooting. I’ll bet that ALL schools across the country got phone calls from worried parents that day. In that instance the anxiety was justified. There was a real attack on children where parents couldn’t help but empathize with their counterparts at Columbine.
When is anxiety not justified? Well that’s a broad brush. After all, a fearful parent’s imagination can really run wild sometimes. I have found myself a few times unable to sleep in the last year, checking and re-checking to make sure all the window dowels were in place. No one is immune from this stuff. I would say that anxiety is not justified when it blinds you to reason. If you can’t see the truth for the fear then you may act in a way that is more harmful than helpful.
Some Partial Solutions
Partial… because if I had any 100% solutions I’d be calling a patent lawyer. These are thoughts were dealing with. Which means that different things work for different people differently… or not. Its really all up in the air here. Here are some things that have worked for me and some other parents I’ve talked to.
Turn Off The News
Every single day in this country there are adults hurting children, children hurting children, and animals hurting children. Then, at 6, 7 and 11pm you get to hear about all of the abuse in gruesome detail on the news. If its a national story, you can depend on some of the 24 hour networks picking it up too. The easy solution to not letting any of this cause you any anxiety is to just turn the news off.
Also, if you watch “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and are suffering from parental anxiety, I would give that show a break as well. Seems like every other episode there’s a child victim.
Pick Up The Phone
A phone call never hurt anyone. If you’re at work and your kid is at daycare just pick up the phone and call. If your child is old enough to have their own phone, just give them a ring during their lunch and see how they’re doing. You might embarrass them but at least you won’t have a heart attack. Remember… its only “overprotective” if you keep them from experiencing things that have a reasonable expectation of safety. Checking up is allowed.
Make Sure They Can Defend Themselves Anywhere
Martial Arts lessons. They get to hit things, you get to watch and feel safer with every lesson. Some preventative measures in this regard are also expected. Make sure they understand the rules when it comes to strangers, curfews, and social media. The best offense is a good defense after all.
Let Your Doctor Diagnose Your Child
Doctors can get it wrong sometimes, that’s what second opinions are for. Let me put this in perspective: If your child is coming into the doctors office with a cough there are well over 1,000 possible diagnoses; same thing for a headache. Being a professional counts for something in these cases.
You Are Not Alone: All Parents Are Cursed
We all have the “my child could die today” fear, no matter how healthy and well prepared they are. Your parents had it. The fact is that no matter what you do, you can not protect them from everything all the time. The best thing you can do is minimize risk by educating them on the dangers in their world and educating yourself enough on what your child is doing to put yourself at ease.
The danger with not confronting this fear is that you protect your children to the point where it impedes their natural development or negatively affects their relationship with you. You may even worry yourself into the hospital… which is also not good for your child.
At the end of the day just give yourself a pat on the back that your kids have made it through another day and that you have (for the most part) kept your sanity. Then check the window dowels one last time before bed.