When has Worry Helped You?
I spoke with a mom who wanted to know when she should start worrying about her daughter’s writing skills. This daughter is in 7th grade.
I chuckled kindly (promise—it was a kind chuckle). I recognize the question. I’ve lived it, just like you have.
I said to her, “When has worrying helped you?”
I followed with, “If I tell you ‘not to worry’ until 10th grade, won’t you start worrying as soon as we hang up? Won’t you worry now about how to get your daughter to write well enough so you won’t have to worry in 10th grade? Aren’t you already worrying, about worrying?”
Worry has a way of expanding to fill all the spaces, like an oozing purple amoeba.
Ask yourself: how does it feel when someone is worried about you? I freeze and resist. I don’t like being the object of someone’s worry. I feel obligated to release them, but often their worries are “justified” in that I am not performing the way they wish I would. So now I’m not only disappointing myself and them, but I’m creating worry in a person I love which ricochets back to me and makes me feel small and deficient.
Worry is not helpful when it becomes the emotional context for your relationship with your child. If your kid can walk through the front door and feel your anxiety leap off of you onto her chest, I guarantee that your worry is not experienced as productive. Worse, it can feel like a loss of respect and a shriveling of love. We must rise above worry!
So is worry ever useful?
The most important thing to do with worry is to use it for research. Recognize that worry tells you: You are not omnipotent. You have no control. You are limited in how much you can help.
However, worry can alert you to this one truth: I need more information. I need help.
The goal shouldn’t be to fix the other person (to get the child to love writing or see it as fun or to progress to high school level). Rather, alleviate the worry through self-education. Become a student of all the ways you can enhance the context for your relationship—how to invest faith and hope, rather than worry and fear. Don’t stop your research until you have discovered the tools and steps that will give you solid ground to stand on. Sometimes the research leads to a “pause” – a respite, a letting go, a “not-doing” and that’s good too!
I applaud the mom who called me. She took action when her worry spiked—she sought another perspective, found a new way to see her daughter and writing, did the research to help her rise above the oozing purple amoeba-like worry.
The bottom line: you are not in control.
Man, that’s hard to swallow.
On the flip side: what a relief!
Let go of worry and foster a supportive, creative, resource-seeking relationship with your children. That’s the best any of us can do.