This article first appeared on Thepositivepsychologypeople.com.
My oldest left for university last year. Although the mother hen in me feared that I would be nostalgic for long gone times and spend my nights shedding tears in silence, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well I actually coped.
However, as time wore on, I began to notice that beneath the apparent strength, there was an underlying fear that emerged every so often. I would panic when she called at odd hours. I would get edgy if she did not call or text for a few days. And I would lose sleep when she was stressed, lonely, angry, or any other emotion on the negative spectrum.
What was I fearful about?
Who were the silent monsters that played in my mind? Why was I unable to visualize her happiness the way I could envision every calamity that may potentially befall her? As I developed an awareness of my thoughts and behaviours, I wondered whether this was how I parented all my children? And as the answer veered towards as astounding yes, I began to notice that as parents, most of us have an inherent urge to shield our children from the very failures that would build their resilience and help them grow.
Is it because of the biologically inherited maternal instincts that have been in place ever since we helped our offspring survive the savannas and saber-toothed tigers? With the evolution of families, fathers are similarly programmed, although generally to a lesser degree. But in the relative safety of the 21st century, is fear for survival the wisest place from which to raise our precious children?
Is it because of the uncertainty of our times that has resulted from the speed of change? We cannot predict what the world will be like when our children initiate life on their own, and as such, we have no sure way of preparing them for times we can barely foresee. The best we can do is to build their resilience and nurture their creativity – and helicopter parenting our way through their challenges is hardly a recipe for doing so.
Is it because of the disconnect we feel with our children that is a consequence of the dramatic cultural change of recent times? Technology has sped us through the biological evolution that would’ve been millennia in the making. As parents, we struggle to enter the worlds of our children. We fear for their dreams and their passionate desire to make a difference that is in stark contrast to our own struggles for food on the table and a safe roof for our families.
It could be any or all of the above, a powerful mix that subconsciously makes us react out of fear. Some of these fears are certainly justified. After all, our children relish testing their limits and taking risk to new heights. But I do wonder whether we are always aware of our reactions. I do wonder whether we can become more conscious of our irrational fears.
Opening up to Fear
For when we do, we can learn to respond in ways that open up the world to our children? We can change our What If’s from scenarios of calamities to the hopes and dreams we have for them. And we can let go of the apron strings that shield them from the very failures that would help them learn and grow.
To prepare them for the uncertain future ahead, we need to develop our own consciousness, so that we help them take risks, grow through failures, open up to opportunities and rise to their highest potential.