How to Worry Less
The reality: There’s plenty to be anxious about. Because you love your children, it’s natural that you want to protect them from harm and heartache, and it can be hard to accept that you can’t completely control everything. In fact, “some worry or concern is probably a sign of good parenting,” says Steven Taylor, Ph.D., a coauthor of It's Not All in Your Head ($17, amazon.com).
You’re most vulnerable if: Your child had a serious illness or accident, or he has a chronic health condition. Or if you were neglected during your childhood, you could be overcompensating by constantly worrying.
What to do: Find a pediatrician you trust and can talk to candidly. “Most pediatricians are used to parents who worry,” says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., the author of Women Who Think Too Much ($14, amazon.com), “and a big part of their job is to help parents figure out what’s worth worrying about and what isn’t.” If your pediatrician doesn’t do this, switch doctors. With worries that aren’t related to health―if your child is struggling with math or having a conflict with a friend―ask yourself whether there’s an action you can take to deal with the situation. Does your child need a tutor? Could talking to a therapist help him better manage difficult friendships? If a solution presents itself, try it. But in the end, Leahy says, “you may have to learn to accept uncertainty. It helps if you recognize that kids are resilient. They have to learn how to fall down to learn how to get up.”
It has gone too far when: Worrying about your children interferes with your own life―if you’re losing sleep or if constant micromanaging is hurting your relationship. “If your body feels tight all the time and you can’t concentrate on work, tell your doctor that worry is interfering with your ability to get through a normal day,” says Nolen-Hoeksema. Ask about the possibility of seeing an anxiety expert.