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Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's the Monster Under Your Bed?

Lion's Whiskers asks: What's the monster under your bed?

Our children are not the only ones who fear monsters lurking under the bed, in the closet, or around a dark corner.  As parents we, too, can lose sleep worrying about our child's well-being.  To see if you are in good company, here's a recent survey conducted by babycenter.com with 2,400 respondents (click here for the full results and complete article) about parents' TOP 5 FEARS and what you can do about them (I've cut and pasted the results with my own ad lib):

1. The Fear: I'm afraid my child won't get the education and opportunities she needs to reach her potential.

What You Can Do: Child development experts agree that it's not necessary to buy every educational toy that hits the market or fill each hour of your child's day with enrichment activities. When it comes to helping your child reach her potential, it turns out that less is often more.  Your presence, your attention, your love, for example, provide the most potent education for your child!  It can take emotional and intellectual courage to weigh the choices involved in our choosing the best educational path for our child, especially if you are swimming against tide and home-schooling, enrolling in an alternative educational program, advocating for a learning disabled child, or deciding less is more in terms of extracurricular activities. 

2. The Fear: I'm afraid someone will hurt or attack my child.
What You Can Do: Stay attuned and continue to nurture a securely attached relationship with your child to ensure the channels of communication stay open, so that if anything does happen you will be the first to know.  Have the "strange behavior" talk...instead of provoking stranger-danger fear, role-play and discuss common scenarios and ways to trust your gut when meeting or crossing paths with strangers and/or familiar people who behave strangely that you may wish to keep at a distance.  While teaching your child to navigate the neighborhood, point out examples of  "strange behavior" and how to walk confidently around those types of situations or people that raise red flags in terms of your child's safety.  Teach your child who and how to tell if they've been hurt...physically, emotionally, or sexually.  Remember, in the vast majority of cases with all types of child abuse, the perpetrator is someone known to the child.
3. The Fear: I'm afraid my child will be injured in an accident, like a car accident.
What You Can Do: Remember that medical trauma center statistics show that the vast number of accidental injuries are preventable.  Teach your child street smarts, how to drive safe, how to be safe around electrical appliances, jump on the trampoline only when it has netting and not in the dark with 10 other pals, and not to answer the cordless phone in the bath!  Building physical courage muscles can help prepare a child to cope with injury, develop the kind of flexibility to move quickly, and build the necessary confidence to recover from physical challenges.  Practice some of our 5-Minute Courage Workouts on how to navigate the neighborhood, play with fire, and stay home alone safely. 

4. The Fear: I'm afraid my child won't fit in socially or will get picked on.
What You Can Do: Experts say that children who experience violence at home are more apt to bully others, so it's important to never treat your child violently or allow others to do so.  Empower your child through physical courage building exercises like enrolling in self-defense or martial arts classes.  Teach them to be the kind of morally courageous bystander who does the right thing, and how to use some of the social courage muscles associated with humor/deflection/ assertion/friendship, etc. when targeted by a bully themselves. 

5. The Fear: I'm afraid my child will have weight problems such as obesity or anorexia.
What You Can Do: The good news is that you can help protect your child from the dangers of obesity. Nobody — not your child's doctor, not her gym teacher, not the director of the school lunch program, not even your child herself — has as much control over what she eats and how she spends her time as you do.  When we feel healthy and happy with our own bodies, and speak about ourselves in self-accepting/self-loving ways, our children learn to feel and do the same.  When peers or the press seem to be exerting unusual or unkind body image pressure, move in and advocate, support, and strengthen your child's self-esteem and emotional, social and physical courage through your parent-child connection. 

Now, let's hear from you! What's your monster's name and how do you tame your fear?

3 comments:

  1. I am very afraid of the negative trappings of social media and the effects of the "world wide web" on our kids. I'm frustrated that there is this generational gap with regards to technology. I know for instance that the kids are communicating by texting and being on Facebook, but I don't think they can fathom the consequences, if they inadvertently write/forward/video tape something inappropriate. And, when I talk to them about it, they think I'm the big nerd who doesn't "get" their world. They try to reassure me that they are not going to go to any "bad" chat room or reveal our home address online, but they don't seem to understand how easily those things can happen. Also, our parents never had to deal with the Internet, so there is no role model for me. I fear that my boys will make a small mistake and it will have major, detrimental effects on their life or the life of someone else.

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  2. I worry that my children will succumb to peer pressure regarding drugs and alcohol, possibly in high school, but even more so when they’re away at college. They have older cousins and they watch movies (i.e., Facebook), and hear about and see this behavior.

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  3. Thanks Anonymous very much for voicing some of the common fears that parents of the IT generation are talking about. In my son's middle school, for example, the computer lab teacher presented a unit on media literacy, cyber-bullying, and the risks associated long-term with some of the choices they are now faced with making as young people (e.g. what to share/not share on facebook especially when future employers could access their posts). I was grateful to know such topics are now actively discussed in many schools. Most important, is having these types of discussions and innoculating our children at home. What I mean is, become familiar with the technology in their lives, discuss what you are learning too, teach them to exercise their social and intellectual courage muscles by being thoughtful about how they use technology--and to not allow it to use them! Modeling the kind of emotional and social courage that it takes to stand up against peer pressure, make healthy lifestyle choices, and expressing our fears, worries, hopes, and cares instead of numbing them through substances or technology, for that matter, is always a wise approach in parenting. Blessings on the journey...and thanks again for voicing some common fears that so many of us now share.

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