Column: Am I worrying too much?

By Aisha Givens
Youth First Inc.

As parents, we often worry about our children. It’s part of the job. We worry when they are young and continue to worry as they grow into teenagers and adults. Being concerned about your child is a healthy and appropriate feeling. However, constant or excessive worrying can be detrimental to both parent and child. This is known as parental paranoia.

Parental paranoia is constant supervision of a child. This type of paranoia often leads parents to limit their child’s activities to ensure that an adult is always present to observe and control the child’s behavior. This kind of attention can suppress creativity and prevents independent thinking. It can also negatively affect a child’s personal relationships later in life.

When I was a child, my parents gave us rules, but many of us freely wandered our neighborhoods. This was just another part of growing up. I remember walking to the store at least three blocks away at the age of 4 with my 5-year-old brother and his 5-year-old friend.

“Adult geographic solidarity,” or lack thereof, plays a role in the parental paranoia we see in today’s society. We all know the saying, “It takes a village.” The village in the past was usually made up of family members and friends who all lived in the same neighborhood. This gave children the opportunity to freely roam, like I used to when I was a child.

Since extended families generally no longer share backyards or neighborhoods, it leaves today’s parents without the reassurance that their children are safely in the hands of other trusted adults.

These days, most parents don’t allow the same freedoms to their children that many of us enjoyed when we were young. The world has changed so much since then. When my girls were 11 years old and wanted to go the mall for the first time without me, my immediate thought was, “Are they going to be safe?”

All of us have these questions about safety. They are normal and healthy responses to perceived risk. However, it is important to remember that in our constantly modernizing world, children are much safer today than during our childhoods.

Today’s most common parenting styles require parents to be observant about safety, which is a good thing in moderation. Most socialization is organized in the form of sports teams, play dates and extracurricular activities.

These activities are wonderful ways for children to form bonds with each other without direct adult supervision. Make an effort to take a step back in situations like these and take comfort in the fact that don’t you have to worry.

Ultimately, you want your children to be responsible, respected and successful. Too much parental observation can add to a child’s stress and anxiety and take away opportunities for children to gain independence. Hovering and micromanaging reduces their ability to lead their own lives.

Strive to find a balance and allow your children the space to learn and grow independently from you. Think about what will happen when it’s time for them to leave home. Will they be ready to face the world, having been protected from it throughout their lives?

Childhood is meant to provide an emotionally secure grounding and a space for freedom, play and learning from mistakes. Give your children that space and freedom to become their best selves.

Aisha Givens, LCSW, is the Youth First Social Worker at Harper Elementary School in Vanderburgh County. Youth First Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 64 Master's level social workers to 92 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.




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