10 Reasons Not to Worry About Your Child
Updated: Feb 5
As parents, most of us worry about our kids. We care about their well-being, we want them to be healthy, and we want them to do well in life.
However, the only end result of worrying is that we create an experience for ourself that is detrimental to our own well-being. I know this because I am an Olympic champion in worrying - I'm truly a world-class expert!
Parental anxiety is higher than ever, particularly in the pandemic age. I have been learning methods to avoid the habit of fretting and to develop better choices managing my thoughts. I recognize that I cannot control anything in life except for my own thoughts. All other people, circumstances, and events are out of my control. But my thoughts are extremely powerful - they lay the foundation for how I will respond, feel, and act, and ultimately, the way I experience life.
Worrying is a response to feeling lack of control over a situation, and when it comes to our kids' health, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when something is wrong. With four kids, my husband and I have dealt with a number of medical problems.
- Broken bones
- An abscess requiring a sedated procedure
- An ICU stay
- Respiratory viruses
- Sleep issues
- Behavioral issues
- Toenail fungus
- Ear infections
- Urinary infections
- And one baby with a very abnormally shaped head, to name a few
What do these things all have in common? The end result of each "problem" was…that everything is fine. (Except the toenail fungus. I'm still not sure how to get rid of that one). But I also spent a LOT of time and unnecessary energy fretting about each of these issues.
When you have a new concern about your child's health or development, you can choose not to worry. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Children are profoundly resilient.
It is amazing how children adapt. Their bones, brains, tissues, and entire bodies are like magical healing machines. They are constantly learning and developing, and each life experience is one that they incorporate into their growth. For physical complaints, children can withstand things that adults cannot.
When a child breaks an arm, it heals like magic (way faster than a grown up would!). A baby can have half their brain removed and their nervous system will rewire itself to use the other side for everything, while an adult who suffers a small stroke in a critical area may be permanently disabled. The examples are endless, but the message is the same - kids are resilient!
2. Most problems in kids get 100% better.
This is my favorite thing about pediatrics. Kids don't just get a little bit better - most of the time, kids get 100% better! They return to a baseline state of health rather than a baseline state of disease. Even when a child suffers a severe injury or illness, in many cases, they recover completely. For common and less severe issues, they almost always recover completely.
3. Most problems in kids get better ON THEIR OWN with time!
Sometimes, the best treatment in pediatrics is "a tincture of time." In other words, if you just wait, things will fix themselves. That is not ALWAYS the case, and of course there is a role for seeking medical care, but if the conclusion is that "it's just a virus" or "just give it time," that is good news! You can rest assured that time will heal most things in kids.
4. Almost everything is a phase.
You should expect transient phases with every single child at every single moment. I think back to all the different phases that we have gone through with our kids. Some of these caused me to delve into all-consuming worry, fretting constantly about how to find a solution to them.
For example, when my oldest daughter was sleep training, she went through a phase where she would scream until she was hyperventilating whenever we put her in her crib and she would literally pull out handfuls of her own hair. I thought she was a miniature psychopath. I did a lot of googling, searching for solutions, talking to other moms, talking to other pediatricians, and fretting. I tried multiple solutions with the way we put her to bed, and giving her a Barbie doll to sleep with (to pull her hair out instead?). After all that energy, nothing I did changed anything...she just stopped doing it one day. It was not even a very long phase - maybe a couple weeks. I can tell you countless similar stories, and almost every single example just needed patience and time to get better.
5. Every child is profoundly different.
If you are parenting multiple children, you may find yourself worrying because you have a different experience with kid #2 than you did with kid #1. But you should expect a completely different experience with each child - this is normal!
When we were first-time parents, our baby slept through the night almost immediately, and we thought we were really awesome at sleep training. Then my 2nd child never slept through the night until her first birthday (she was the hair-pulling-out-screaming banshee). I thought she was a little maniac and wondered about her long term mental stability. Now she is a sweet and darling 6-year-old who giggles at our stories of her crazy sleep training days.
You should never worry when one of your kids does something different than another one. Two of my kids walked at 11 months, and two of them didn’t walk until 15 months. Both of those are normal. There is such a wide range of normal in pediatric development, and each child is an individual.
6. When you worry, it does not change the outcome.
Can you believe it? I feel so productive when I worry! I tell myself that I am RESEARCHING a solution or IMPLEMENTING a plan to deal with the problem. But, truly, the act of worrying has never once changed the outcome of the thing I was worrying about.
7. When you worry, it does change how you show up as a parent.
Worrying changes the way you respond to the world around you. When I am fretting about something, my mind spins and spins. The effect is that I am not present for the little person sitting right in front of me.
8. Struggle is good for kids.
If I find myself worrying because of my child's struggle, I remind myself that struggle is what helps them to grow. As parents, we want to pave the way to a good life for our kids, but they learn so much when they are challenged. As parents, it is our job to advocate for our kids, but they develop resiliency when they work through problems on their own.
9. Curiosity is a better tactic.
When I am really worried about something in my own child, I stop and ask myself some questions instead. What am I actually worried about? What would be a better thought to focus my mental energy on? Is there something I could learn about that might make me feel better? By choosing curiosity instead of worry, I am able to avoid the spinning brain phenomenon.
10. Worry is contagious.
You know how they say that if you are nervous riding a horse, the horse will sense it and become nervous himself? This happens with kids too. They are looking to you for guidance, and they will follow your example. If you are worrying about something, they will start to worry also. If you choose to control your reaction to situations, you will teach your kids healthy ways to deal with stress and uncertainty.
Instead of fretting, here's what you should do:
1. Seek valid information
For medical issues, seeking information from reputable sources is the BEST thing for you to do. There are so many resources available that are curated by experts, but with social media and other online voices, there is a lot of false information that can instill panic in you.
With this blog, I intend to create a set of resources for common pediatric conditions and help empower you to be informed. I highly recommend going to sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics or websites from Children's Hospitals when you want to learn about medical questions to avoid misinformation.
I will be tackling a lot of common pediatric issues in this blog, and hope to become a source of valid information for you as well.
2. Choose the next step to take
There are just too many possible futures to anticipate, and we can't plan for them all. It is good to be informed, but then you just need to choose the NEXT right thing. As Anna from Frozen would say, "All one can do is the next right thing."
With kids, often the next right thing is to choose to be patient and allow some time for the problem to run its course.
3. If there is no action needed, RELEASE the worry.
This is easier said than done! I encourage you to actively choose not to worry if there is nothing you can do about a situation. Know that most things get better with time, and choose a different thought instead of fretting.